CHIANG RAI • The first four boys rescued from a flooded cave in northern Thailand were in good health and demanding fried rice in hospital, the head of the rescue team said, as divers yesterday managed to bring out another four more from the cave.
"The four children are fine. The children complained that they were hungry and wanted holy basil stir-fried rice," Former Chiang Rai governor Narongsak Osotthanakorn, the head of the rescue operation, told reporters, referring to a popular Thai dish.
Interior Minister Anupong Paochinda said the boys were generally "strong and safe", and under close medical supervision.
"They need to undergo more medical tests," he told reporters yesterday.
A source involved in the rescue mission who saw two of the four boys walk out of the cave said that they looked tired but healthy.
He did not give further details.
"Imagine marathon runners. It is like when they reach the finish line exhausted," said the source.
At the hospital in Chiang Rai, green canvas sheets had been put up to block the entrance from view.
Medical staff involved in the rescue mission said their first assessments when the boys arrived at the hospital focused on their breathing, signs of hypothermia and an airborne lung infection known as "cave disease", which is caused by bat and bird droppings and can be fatal if untreated and allowed to spread to other parts of the body.
The first four rescued boys have been placed in a ward set aside specifically for the cave rescue operation after being rushed from the cave by military helicopter, a source at the hospital said.
At the Mae Sai Prasitsart School, where six of the 12 boys studied, the principal and teachers said they promised to give the boys a lighter homework load once they are back in class. They will be exempt from upcoming tests.
Principal Kanetpong Suwan said teachers and students have been briefed to treat the boys normally and positively, not to ask them about details that would remind them of their ordeal, and to welcome all of them back with open arms.
"It isn't anyone's fault," he said. "We should treat them like disaster victims, and not like they have done anything wrong."
Still, their friends and classmates are brimming with questions, including a very pressing one: Why did you go in there?
"I really want to know, why did he go inside?" said classmate Monthip Yodkham. "I thought it was so dangerous. I told them that."
REUTERS, BERNAMA, WASHINGTON POST