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The general leading the huge global effort to rescue the young footballers and their coach thanked the god of rain for his forbearance, as the boys were guided out of the Tham Luang caves in full-face masks - easier than traditional respirators for novice divers to use - during an intense nine-hour operation.

"Imagine marathon runners. It is like when they reach the finish line exhausted", said the source.

The youngest child, Chanin Wiboonrunreung, and 25-year-old football coach Ekaphol Chantawong, are still inside. Four boys were taken out of the cave by divers on Sunday.

A team of 90 expert divers - 40 from Thailand and 50 from overseas - have been involved in the intricate rescue operation.

The first boy rescued by Monday's team was freed around 4:30 p.m. local time and transferred to the same hospital as the first four boys who were rescued on Sunday.

Writing in elegant Thai script, the boys urged their parents not to worry, adding that they hoped they wouldn't get too much homework after being rescued and couldn't wait to eat their favorite foods again. We've got good news for you.

He told reporters the four rescued boys were taken to the hospital in the town of Chiang Rai, the provincial capital, for evaluation.

Dr. Andrew Adesman, chief of developmental pediatrics at Cohen Children's Medical Center in New Hyde Park, New York, said there is a threat of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) for the boys and their coach, but he said he is hopeful it won't be an issue for a majority of the kids.

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"We are so happy that today we could rescue another four kids", Narongsak Osatanakorn, the head of the joint command centre coordinating the operation, announced at a press briefing on Monday evening.

Eight boys are still inside the cave and along with the team coach. "I want to say thanks for all the support and I want to apologise to the parents", he wrote. "They've been in an area where oxygen levels are low", Dr Darria Long Gillespie of the University of Tennessee School of Medicine told CNN.

Rescue organisers said they need 20 hours to replan and replenish oxygen supplies, with the next rescue mission expected to come some time on Tuesday afternoon, weather permitting. The diver, the first fatality of the rescue effort, was working in a volunteer capacity and died on a mission to place air canisters along the passage to where the boys are, necessary for divers to safely travel the five- to six-hour route.

Getting to and from where the boys are has been an exhausting round trip, even for the experienced divers.

After rescuing the four boys, the officials paused the operation for at least 10 hours to fill the oxygen tanks that were used. "But there are caves where. explorers could go in and be trapped by rising water during like a heavy rain and trapped in an air pocket", Brick said.

Among these were that none of the boys had scuba diving experience and that they could easily panic while swimming underwater across twisted passageways in darkness.

The second rescue attempt is believed to have started at 11am local time on Monday.