Experienced cave rescue experts had considered an underwater escape a last resort, especially with people untrained in diving, as the boys are. But officials waited several hours before confirming their rescue.
Onlookers in Chiang Rai, Thailand, watch and cheer as ambulances transport some of the rescued schoolboys from a cave where they were trapped for two weeks. Thirteen foreign divers and five members of Thailand's navy SEAL unit are taking part in the rescue operation.
But at a Tuesday press conference they were optimistic about the progress of the "Wild Boars" to emerge so far, in two long and complex days of operations to free them.
A whole floor of the Chiang Rai Prachanukroh Hospital has been reserved for the soccer team.
The head of the operation, Narongsak Osottanakorn, said earlier the final operation would be "more challenging" because one more survivor would be brought out, along with three Navy SEALs who have been accompanying them. "Everyone is in high spirits and are happy to get out".
Prayer and heart emoji abound on Thai social media, along with pig emoji symbolising the 12 players and coach from the Wild Boar soccer academy.
The perilous rescues have involved two divers accompanying each of the boys, all of whom have been learning to dive only since July 2, when searchers found them.
Narongsak said after the first four boys were rescued that they would be quarantined "for a while because we are concerned about infections".
But while divers risk their lives to get the team out, two Hollywood producers are beginning a project telling the boys's story.
Jesada Chokdumrongsuk, deputy director-general of the Public Health Ministry, said Tuesday that the first four boys rescued, aged 12 to 16, are now able to eat normal food.
Volunteers from as far away as Australia and the United States helped with the effort to rescue the boys.
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The first group of boys have seen their parents but the other families are yet to have contact.
Dr Richard Harris, 53, an anaesthetist from Adelaide, undertook the risky dive to reach the boys and their coach last Saturday, reported The Sydney Morning Herald.
Heavy rains lashed the northern Thai region late yesterday and a steady downpour has continued into today.
Eight of the boys had been brought out of the cave by a team of Thai and global divers on Sunday and Monday.
Chiang Rai Gov. Narongsak Osatanakorn said he was thankful for Musk's support but the equipment was impractical for the rescue mission.
The rescuers have been learning from experience and were two hours faster in bringing out the second batch of survivors on Monday.
Reuters reported that eight players have been rescued in risky attempts by a world-class global team of divers. The team's 25-year-old coach and four boys are still deep inside the flooded and sprawling cave.
The tech entrepreneur tweeted Tuesday morning he'd "Just returned from Cave 3" referring to the rescuers' command centre inside the extensive cave network.
CNN was told the boys were exploring the caves on June 23 with their coach when they were trapped inside by heavy seasonal rains.
All of the rescued boys had low temperatures, but are being warmed up.