All 12 boys and their football coach found alive in Thailand cave after 9 days

All 12 boys and their football coach found alive in Thailand cave after 9 days
A family member shows a picture of four of the twelve missing boys near the Tham Luang cave at the Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park in Mae Sai on July 2, 2018.
PHOTO: AFP

CHIANG RAI, Thailand - Twelve boys and their assistant football coach have been found alive by rescuers inside a Thai cave complex nine days after they went missing, Chiang Rai province's governor said on Monday.

The boys, aged between 11 and 16, went missing with the 25-year-old after football practice on June 23 after they set out to explore the Tham Luang cave complex in a forest park near by the border with Myanmar.

A massive international rescue effort has been under way since, with rescue teams battling through thick mud and high water to try to reach the group in the cave network that stretches 10 km (6 miles) into a mountain.

"Thai Navy seals have found all 13 with signs of life,"Governor Narongsak Osottanakorn told reporters who have been following the increasingly desperate search that has gripped the country.

READ ALSO: Dramatic footage released of emaciated Thai kids in cave

Relatives of the boys, who have been at a shelter near the cave hoping for a breakthrough, were seen cheering, smiling and receiving calls after being given the news. Rescuers shook hands and congratulated each other as occasional cheers broke out.

It remains unclear whether any of the group are injured or in need of medical attention, but they have been given energy gels to sustain them while a plan is worked out to bring them to safety.

As the days wore on with the group missing, distraught family members had placed fruit, desserts, sugary drinks and sweets on mats near the cave as an offering to the spirits which some people believe protect the cave and the forest.

Rescuers had been working on Monday to clear a constricted passageway for divers deep inside the flooded complex in a search operation that has been hampered by heavy rain.

All 13 members of Thai junior football team found in flooded cave

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    Parents of the boys trapped in the Chiang Rai cave shed tears of joy and relief on Wednesday morning as they watched a video of them being treated for minor injuries.

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    The Royal Thai Navy SEALS shot the video and posted it on their “ThaiSEAL” Facebook page, showing the 12 boys noticeably thinner and looking exhausted.

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    But the boys swaddled in silvery blankets proclaim themselves in good health in the clip.

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    Their parents watched the video while they were waiting to talk to the boys via a specially rigged phone system.

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    They reaffirmed their love for the children and said they were forgiven for going astray, since none of them could have expected the June 23 cave excursion would turn into a nail-biting 10-day drama, with no clear end yet in sight.

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    Attention has now turned to how to get the group back out through several kilometers of dangerously flooded tunnels.

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    The navy has raised the possibility that the 13 could be in the Tham Luang cave in Chiang Rai province until the flood waters recede, at the end of the rainy season in four months.

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    But others say the boys could be out in a matter of days if the weather is on their side and water can be pumped out of the cave complex, and if they can be taught to use scuba gear.

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    Kobchai Boonarana, deputy director-general of the Disaster Prevention and Mitigation department, said it was up to the rescue team in the cave to decide whether and when the boys would be strong enough to tackle the journey out.

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    “We miss them and want to see them get out very soon,” one parent said as the video played. “They look thinner, but we’re happy they’re safe.”

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    Rescuers found all 12 boys and their football coach alive inside the flooded Tham Luang Cave Monday night.

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    The 13 victims from a local football club, Mu Pa Academy Mae Sai, have been stranded inside the cave in Chiang Rai province because of flash floods since June 23.

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    The group, mostly seated and with baggy football shirts pulled over their knees and illuminated by torchlight, asked for food and to leave the cave immediately, according to the video taken late Monday and shared on the official Facebook page of the Thai Navy SEALS.

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    The group appeared exhausted, rake thin, sensitive to the light but lucid, with some speaking faltering English to try to communicate with the unidentified diver.

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    Family members celebrate while camping out near Than Luang cave following news all members of children's football team and their coach were alive in the cave at Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park in the Mae Sai district of Chiang Rai province late July 2, 2018.

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    The Chiang Rai governor praised and gave credits to two British cave diving experts who found the missing team. He did not mention the names but it is understood to be John Volanthen and Richard Stanton (pic, in blue).

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    Three British cave-divers, Richard William Stanton (L), John Volanthen (2nd-L) and Robert Charles Harper (3rd-L) arrive at Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park near the Tham Luang cave in Chiang Rai on June 27, 2018

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    12 boys, aged between 11 and 16, and their 25-year old assistant football coach went missing on Saturday after they decided to explore the Tham Luang cave complex in Chiang Rai province,

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    despite a sign warning visitors that the maze of passages and chambers was prone to flooding.

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    Bicycles and football shoes belonging to the boys were found near the entrance, and rescue workers think handprints inside the cave could have been left by the group.

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    But the search has so far yielded no other trace.

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    The race to find the boys has gripped the Southeast Asian nation

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    International rescue teams, including one sent by the United States Pacific Command (PACOM),

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    are assisting the Thai army, navy and police in a search operation that has been hampered by heavy rain.

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    Plans to drill into the mountainside overnight to drain water from inside the vast cave complex have been partially successful.

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    The 10-kilometre cave is one of Thailand's longest. Visitors are usually only allowed up to 800 meters inside the cave, which has a reputation for being difficult to navigate.

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    Exhausted family members have been keeping vigil near the cave as they await news about their loved ones.

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    Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha visited the site, offering encouragement to rescuers and comfort to relatives.

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    "Whatever can be done, do it, the government will back it," said Prayuth.

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    "They're athletes. They're strong," he told the boys' relatives in an attempt to comfort them.

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MEDICAL TEAMS

Divers from Thailand's elite navy SEAL unit had been focusing on an elevated mound inside the cave which cavers have named "Pattaya Beach", which could have provided the boys with a refuge when rains flooded the cave.

on Facebook

Hooyah.....ทีมหมูป่า พบเยาวชนทีมหมูป่าบริเวณหาดทรายห่างจาก Pattaya beach 200 เมตร ...

Posted by Thai NavySEAL on Monday, 2 July 2018

"The SEALs reported that ... they reached Pattaya Beach which was flooded. So they went 400 metres further where we found the 13 ... who were safe," Narongsak told the cheering group of reporters.

on Facebook

2/07/18 วันนี้นักดำน้ำ. คน ทั้งจากหน่วยซีล, นักดำน้ำจากการไฟฟ้าฝ่ายผลิตฯ, ชาวอังกฤษ, สวีเดน, อเมริกา, ออสเตรเลีย, จีน,...

Posted by Thai NavySEAL on Monday, 2 July 2018

Captain Jessica Tait from the US Air Force's rescue support team said there were "lots of challenges" throughout the search but that the effort had brought the country together.

"When you consider it there were lots of challenges when it comes to the elements, when it comes to the elements, when it comes to different courses of actions," Tait told reporters.

"But you know what I saw, I saw Thailand coming together,"she added.

The next challenge will be getting the group out of the cave, which some have dubbed a "labyrinth".

Rescuers had discussed waiting until water levels subsided to get the boys out. Other options included teaching the group to use diving gear to navigate the flooded cave.

Medical teams were seen preparing first aid kits after news of the group's discovery broke outside the cave's entrance.

READ ALSO: Trapped footballers in Thailand cave survived by lying still, drinking dripping water

Narongsak said medical teams had been sent inside the cave and it would take them around four hours to assess the group's health and how fit they are before coming up with a strategy to get them out.

The boys have been provided with energy gel to eat, the Thai navy SEAL unit said on its official Facebook page.

"Power gel and sustenance equipment has been brought ... to the team ... and we've sent people to keep them company until the transport plan can begin," it said.

 

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