The members of the "Wild Boars" team, aged between 12 and 16, were guided to safety through the twisting, submerged passages of the Tham Luang cave by a team of global expert divers flanked by Thai Navy SEALs over two days in a meticulously planned operation.
Narongsak Osottanakorn told a news conference the latest rescue operation began at about 10.08am local time (11.08am Singapore time).
The 31cm-wide custom submarine would make the boys passive participants in the rescue and could potentially shorten the journey, which took divers a total of nine hours in the second successful rescue operation on Monday.
Mr Narongsak allayed concerns that recent heavy rain might have raised water levels, saying conditions were "as good as yesterday" "We should hear good news again", he added. Two of them possibly have a lung infection but all eight are generally "healthy and smiling", he said.
The hazardous bid to rescue the boys - aged between 11 and 16 - started unexpectedly on Sunday when the rescue team said conditions were ideal for the evacuation.
Four fellow teammates and their coach, Ekaphol Chantawong, remain inside, with hopes that they will be rescued on Tuesday.
Boys from the soccer team trapped inside Tham Luang cave covered in hypothermia blankets react to the camera in Chiang Rai, Thailand, in this still image taken from a July 3, 2018 video by Thai Navy Seal. The 25-year-old football coach may have to wait one more day for rescue.
Ambulances and a helicopter were seen rushing from the cave site on Monday.
The boys brought out of the dark, winding cave on Monday are "safe and conscious", said Chiang Rai province acting Gov. Narongsak Osatanakorn, who is in charge of the rescue effort.
Still, the four were undergoing medical checks in a hospital in Chiang Rai city, the provincial capital, and were not yet allowed close contact with relatives, due to fear of infections.
"I am very happy about those who already made it out and I think everyone will be out today", said Waranchit Karnkaew, 14, who also said the football-mad boys had been closely following games at the World Cup in Russian Federation before they were trapped.
The safety of the divers, who have meticulously planned the mission, is also paramount.
The plight of the boys and their coach has drawn worldwide attention, with divers, engineers and medics among others flying in from around the world to assist.
On July 6th, former Thai Navy diver, Petty Officer Saman Gunan died while helping deliver oxygen to the team.
There were several concerns that prompted authorities to move forward with the plan to dive the boys out.
Oxygen levels in the caves also dropped, causing the cramped passageways to be even more deadly than before.
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