AN AUSTRALIAN doctor's triaging of 12 boys trapped in a cave in northern Thailand may have led to the rescue of four of the weakest children first.

Chiang Rai former governor Narongsak Osottanakorn, who is heading the rescue operation, had said Sunday was the "perfect day" to launch the daring rescue before heavy rain was again expected inundate the Tham Luang caves, 60km from Chiang Rai.

The initial plan was to bring the strongest out first.

But after Adelaide cave diver and anaesthetist Richard Harris, 53, assessed the youngsters and their coach that strategy appears to have been reversed, Thai media has reported.

Adding to the theory is the relatively short time it took to retrieve the four boys from the cave because of the lower water levels, which meant they could wade through some sections of the underground labyrinth instead of diving. Narongsak told a press conference late Sunday the rescue operation, launched at 10am, had taken "hours faster than expected".

 

12 boys and their soccer coach have been stuck in the caves since June 23. Picture: Royal Thai Navy Facebook Page via AP
12 boys and their soccer coach have been stuck in the caves since June 23. Picture: Royal Thai Navy Facebook Page via AP

 

Further adding to speculation that the weakest were rescued first was the condition of the first boy taken from the cave.

Mongkol Boonpiem, 13, emerged from the cave at 5.37pm and was taken to Chiangrai Prachanukroh Hospital.

Thai media reported one of the four boys was in a critical condition and a family friend told a reporter it was Mongkol, the weakest of the group, whose condition has since stabilised.

"I think Narongsak and the commanders changed their minds after the Australian doctor inspected the boys' health and mental state," one senior Thai journalist said.

"They decided to take the weakest out first." The boys aged 11 to 16 are members of the Mu Pa Academy Mae Sai football club and have been trapped inside the Tham Luang cave with their coach, Ekapol Chantawong, 25, since June 23.

Dr Harris was requested by other international divers at the cave site to join the rescue operation.

He has 30 years' diving experience and was involved in the retrieval of the body of stunt diver Agnes Milowka who died at Millicent, South Australia, in 2011.

Eight Australian divers, six from the Australian Federal Police, are part of the 90-strong Thai and international diving team taking part in the operation.

It's also understood the decision to ban the media, totalling about 1000, from the area around the cave entrance on Sunday was to facilitate faster ambulance access to the freeway to get the rescued boys to a football field where they could be taken by helicopter to the Chiang Rai hospital.

The rescue operation is due to resume at 8am on Monday.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha is scheduled to visit Chiang Rai in the afternoon.

 

Thai navy seals divers seen traversing the cramped cave system in Tham Luang cave at the Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park in Mae Sai district of Chiang Rai province, Thailand.
Thai navy seals divers seen traversing the cramped cave system in Tham Luang cave at the Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park in Mae Sai district of Chiang Rai province, Thailand.


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