WORLD NEWS
07/10/2018 02:15 am ET Updated 5 days ago

All 12 Boys And Coach Freed From Thailand Cave

The soccer team and their coach had been trapped in the Tham Luang Cave for more than two weeks.

Thai Navy SEALs confirmed Tuesday morning that all 12 boys and their coach have been rescued from Thailand’s Tham Luang Cave after heavy rains trapped the junior soccer team for more than two weeks. 

“The 12 Wild Boars and coach have emerged from the cave and they are safe,” Thai Navy SEALs wrote on Facebook, according to The Guardian. “Hooyah.”

Four Navy SEALs, including a medic, who had been helping the boys in the cave over the past several days were safely evacuated a few hours later, the SEALs’ Facebook page announced with a photo.

“We are not sure if this is a miracle, a science, or what. All the thirteen Wild Boars are now out of the cave,” the SEALs wrote on Facebook. 

U.S. President Donald Trump congratulated the SEALs and the successful rescue mission in a Tuesday morning tweet, as did his wife, Melania Trump.

U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May also expressed her joy at the news via Twitter. Some of the volunteers who helped rescue the team are U.K. citizens.

An international rescue team entered the flooded cave system on Tuesday for the third consecutive day to free the remaining four boys and their 25-year-old soccer coach still trapped inside.

The Thai Navy SEALs confirmed in a Facebook post that a ninth boy had been pulled from the cave just after 4 p.m. local time on Tuesday. The Guardian and Reuters said a 10th and 11th boy were freed shortly thereafter.

A team of 19 divers had resumed the rescue mission at 10 a.m. local time on Tuesday, Thai officials said. 

“If there are no abnormal factors, all five will come out today,” Narongsak Osatanakorn, the former Chiang Rai governor who has been heading up rescue efforts, told reporters Tuesday afternoon. The media greeted the news with cheers.

It has been a race against rain for the rescuers. Reporters near the cave site said heavy rain had been “bucketing down” overnight and that “cave flooding is possible soon.” 

Osatanakorn said conditions in the cave had not changed much despite the heavy rain.

The rescue operation to extract the 12 members of the Wild Boars junior soccer team and their coach from the Tham Luang Cave commenced on Sunday. Four children were freed that first day and transported to an area hospital.

Osatanakorn told reporters at the time that the four boys had to dive more than half a mile to get to safety. The children reportedly wore full-faced masks while clinging to the bodies of rescue divers. Rescue efforts were then suspended for up to 20 hours because they had used up all the oxygen and needed to replenish supplies.

On Monday, at 11 a.m. local time, the mission resumed. Four more boys were pulled from the cave that day — the first emerging before 5 p.m. After the boys were transported to the same hospital as their other teammates, Thai officials said the rescue operation would again be put on hold for up to 20 hours so rescuers could lay down new air tanks and prepare the escape route.

Rescue officials had previously said the team’s coach, Ekkapol Chantawong,  was among “the weakest in the group” because he gave up his share of food and water to the children in the early days of their entrapment.

The boys and their coach first went missing on June 23. The group had gone for a trek when heavy rains trapped them in a dark, cramped chamber 2.5 miles inside in the Tham Luang Cave system. They were discovered nine days later by two British volunteer rescue divers

An international team of engineers, rescue workers and divers joined forces to help the group escape. The teams risked their lives to deliver supplies and food to the children and their coach, and divers taught the boys ― some of whom don’t even know how to swim ― diving and breathing techniques to prepare them for their harrowing journey home.

The extreme danger of the rescue effort was underscored last week when a former Thai navy SEAL, Saman Gunan, died while placing oxygen tanks deep inside the cave.

“He was a very capable SEAL and a triathlete who liked adventure sports,” the Thai Navy SEALs wrote in a Facebook post. “His determination and good intention will always be in the heart of all SEAL brothers. Today, you get some good rest. We will complete the mission for you.” 

Even tech billionaire Elon Musk had lent a helping hand to the rescue effort. Musk shared photographs on Twitter Tuesday morning that appeared to show him visiting the cave site. His rocket company SpaceX has developed a “tiny, kid-size submarine” to help with the rescue and Musk said it was “ready if needed.”

The rescue chief later told reporters that while Musk’s “technology is good and sophisticated, it’s not practical for this mission.”

Musk was among those celebrating the team’s rescue on Tuesday.

Thai health officials told reporters on Tuesday morning that despite their ordeal, the eight boys who had at that point been rescued appeared to be in good health, The Guardian reported. Two boys are being treated for mild lung infections, doctors said, adding that medical tests were still ongoing.

While the first group to be rescued has been reunited with their parents, officials said they had to meet from a distance ― “through glass.” The second group will likely see their parents later on Tuesday. 

The first group has reportedly been allowed to eat chocolate and bread after requesting it. The second group is still eating “medical food.” The boys will be hospitalized for at least a week.

FIFA’s president invited the team to fly to Russia to watch the World Cup final, which is scheduled to take place on Sunday. However, Dr. Jesada Chokedamrongsuk of the Thai Ministry of Public Health said the boys would not be able to make the trip, Channel News Asia reported.

“They can watch on TV,” he said.

This story has been updated with details about Tuesday’s rescue.

Nina Golgowski contributed to this report.

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