Fresh navy video shows Thai cave boys in 'good health'

PHOTO: Reuters

A new video of a youth football team trapped in the bowels of a Thai cave emerged Wednesday showing the boys laughing and saying they are well after their astonishing discovery by divers nine days after going missing.

In a heartening message to families waiting in anguish outside, the Thai Navy SEAL footage features 11 of the 12-strong team, each makes a traditional Thai greeting gesture to the camera before introducing themselves by nickname and saying "I'm in good health".

Several of the boys in the frame are wearing protective foil blankets and are accompanied by a smiling diver in a wetsuit.

Their 25-year-old coach, who accompanied the boys down the cave after football training on June 23, is not heard in the footage, published on the Thai Navy Facebook page.

It is the second video to delight a Thai nation that has held its breath for a successful outcome to a complex rescue kilometres inside one of the country's longest caves.

The one-minute clip ends on a jovial note, with one of the 12 young footballers saying he was forgotten in the round of introductions, sparking laughter.

The boys appear relaxed and much more alert than when they were when discovered late Monday by British divers, as they took shelter from surging underground waters on a muddy ledge.

Outside the cave one of the boy's mothers teared-up as she watched the clip on a television screen, saying she was "glad" for a glimpse of her son.

"He is thinner," she said as she ran her finger over his image -- a sign of the heartache the saga has brought to relatives of the trapped 13.

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

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • But the boys swaddled in silvery blankets proclaim themselves in good health in the clip.
  • Their parents watched the video while they were waiting to talk to the boys via a specially rigged phone system.
  • 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.
  • Attention has now turned to how to get the group back out through several kilometers of dangerously flooded tunnels.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • “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.”
  • Rescuers found all 12 boys and their football coach alive inside the flooded Tham Luang Cave Monday night.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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).
  • 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
  • 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,
  • despite a sign warning visitors that the maze of passages and chambers was prone to flooding.
  • 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.
  • But the search has so far yielded no other trace.
  • The race to find the boys has gripped the Southeast Asian nation
  • International rescue teams, including one sent by the United States Pacific Command (PACOM),
  • are assisting the Thai army, navy and police in a search operation that has been hampered by heavy rain.
  • Plans to drill into the mountainside overnight to drain water from inside the vast cave complex have been partially successful.
  • 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.
  • Exhausted family members have been keeping vigil near the cave as they await news about their loved ones.
  • Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha visited the site, offering encouragement to rescuers and comfort to relatives.
  • "Whatever can be done, do it, the government will back it," said Prayuth.
  • "They're athletes. They're strong," he told the boys' relatives in an attempt to comfort them.

Several Navy SEAL divers have deployed along with medics, while the challenging process of evacuating the "Wild Boar" team begins.

Thai authorities say the focus is now building up the boys' physical and mental strength after an ordeal that has left them emaciated.

Next, they have three main options: diving out of the cave system, exiting through another hole if one can be found -- or drilled -- or waiting out the rainy season underground.

Experts say diving out is laden with risk -- more so as the boys have never dived before and may not be able to swim.

Areas of the cave remain submerged and the murky waters are very difficult to navigate, even if the boys are given good equipment and a crash-course in how to dive.

The last option could be protracted as the monsoon begins to bite and officials say they have stored food, medicine and equipment to last for up to four months at an underground base.