All 12 boys and their football coach trapped for more than two weeks deep inside a flooded Thailand cave have been rescued, a Thai navy SEAL unit confirmed.
The boys all aged between 11 and 16 ventured into the Tham Luang cave complex with their 25-year-old football coach, after a training session on June 23, 2018.
It was reportedly dry when they climbed in but a sudden deluge of rain poured floodwaters into the cave, trapping them and forcing them to retreat further into the system. News that they had gone missing sparked a massive search operation involving more than 1,000 people, Guardian reports with several expert cave divers from all around the world flying in to help out.
On July 2, 2018, divers found the hungry and fatigued group of boys huddled on a ledge in a cavern, sparking joyous scenes across Thailand and the rest of the world. However, jubilation turned to grave concern after the military warned that the boys could have to wait for up to four months for floodwaters to recede before they could be rescued. Divers brought food and other supplies, and a Navy doctor was sent in to care for the group. On July 6, 2018, former Thai navy diver Saman Gunan died after losing consciousness in the cave complex, where he had been delivering air tanks. His death underscored the dangers involved in the rescue operation.
Then on Sunday July 8, 2018, Thai authorities decided they had to act, as fears mounted that the flooding would worsen under heavy rains. And so a remarkable operation began to rescue the team. In three round trips, the boys were guided out by expert divers, navigating narrow and treacherous underwater passageways and pinch points so narrow that oxygen tanks had to be removed from their backs. Four boys were brought out on Sunday, four on Monday, and the remaining four and their coach today. The first four boys to be freed were reunited with their parents on Monday July 10, 2018 through a glass window.
Public health officials would decide later whether the second batch could see their families. Narongsak Osatanakorn, the head of the joint command centre coordinating the operation said. The boys had asked for chocolate spread on bread, which the hospital had provided, he said. They were still wearing sunglasses as a precaution while their eyes adjusted to the light, he added.