Thailand cave rescue: Boys wake up at home for first time in weeks

PHOTO: Reuters

CHIANG RAI - Thailand's rescued cave boys woke up in their own homes for the first time in more than three weeks on Thursday (July 19), with many rising at dawn to take part in a religious ceremony.

The 12 boys, aged 11 to 16, and their 25-year-old coach were discharged from a hospital in the northern province of Chiang Rai on Wednesday and later made their first public appearance.

During a national TV broadcast they smiled, joked and showed solidarity with one another, as they shared details of their traumatic experience inside the flooded Tham Luang cave complex.

Many of the boys hail from the sleepy district of Mae Sai, near the border with Myanmar. Some were greeted with hugs, tears and smiles from waiting relatives and friends when they returned home on Wednesday. Others were blessed with water as they entered their homes.

On Thursday, some of the boys and their relatives took part in religious ceremonies at Mae Sai's Wat Pha That Doi Wao temple - an ancient temple with scenic views of the surrounding countryside.

Reporters were not allowed close to the boys and their families at the temple to give them privacy.

The last of the group of 13 were brought out of the cave last Tuesday, ending a gruelling 18-day ordeal that claimed the life of Saman Gunan, a volunteer diver and former Thai navy Seal who came to help with the rescue mission.

Saman died on July 6 after losing consciousness during a mission to place oxygen tanks deep inside the cave, just two days before the first boys were brought to safety.

Thai cave rescue: Boys share details of their traumatic experience

  • During a national TV broadcast they smiled, joked and showed solidarity with one another, as they shared details of their traumatic experience inside the flooded Tham Luang cave complex.
  • During their TV news conference, the boys said when they entered the cave on June 23 they had planned to only be inside the cave for about an hour after football practice.
  • But a rainy season downpour flooded the tunnels, trapping them.
  • The boys had no food and survived only on water. They took turns digging at the cave walls, hoping to find a way out.
  • "This experience made me stronger and taught me not to give up," said the team's youngest member, who goes by the name Titan.
  • The boys will eventually spend time as novice Buddhist monks to honour the dead diver's memory, their coach said on Wednesday.
  • The Chiangrai Prachanukroh Hospital on Saturday released a video clip on its Facebook page showing the 12 Mu Pa (Wild Boar) Academy footballers and their coach thanking everyone for their concern and help in rescuing them. Chanin Wibulrungruang (Titan), 11, said his condition was returning to normal and he would like to eat sushi. He thanked the Navy SEALs for rescuing him and thanked everyone for all the moral support.
  • They also conveyed that they were in good health and looked forward to tasting their favourite foods. The 12 youths and the coach were seen in a row of beds in the three-minute clip.
  • Pipat Phothi (Nik), 15, said he felt in good health. He said he would like to eat rice with crisp fried pork, and rice with stew red pork. He thanked the rescuers and everyone for the moral support.
  • Piraphat Sompiangchai (Night), 16, said he felt in good health and he would like to eat pork pan chabu very much. He thanked everyone for all the moral support.
  • Adul Sam-on (Dul), 14, said his condition had improved and he would like to go to a KFC shop. He said he was now killing time by drawing pictures of his friends and Coach Ek in the cave.
  • He also said in English: “I’m Adul. I’m very fine. Thank you for helping us. Thank you very much.”
  • Ekkapol Chanthawong, 25, or Coach Ek, said he his condition was improving and he now felt strong. He would like to eat fried rice with crisp pork. He said he would like to thank all the people and all the ministries and Navy SEALs as well as the doctors for helping the team.
  • Pornchai Khamluang (Tee), 16, said he would like to eat fried rice with crisp pork and would like to thank everyone for all the moral support.
  • Sompong Jaiwong (Pong), 13, said he was strong now. He would like to eat curry basil rice with fried egg. He thanked everyone for all the moral support and thanked the international community for helping the team. “Thank you,” he said in English.
  • Mongkol Boonpiam (Mark), 13, said he was now strong and could even run. He would like to eat a piece of steak. He thanked everyone for all the moral support and promised to fight on
  • This handout video grab taken from footage released by The Thai government public relations department (PRD) and Government spokesman bureau on July 11, 2018 shows members of the "Wild Boars" football team being treated at a hospital in Chiang Rai.
  • The 12 boys rescued from a Thai cave were passed "sleeping" on stretchers through the treacherous passageways, a former Thai Navy SEAL told AFP on July 11, giving the first clear details of an astonishing rescue mission that has captivated the world.
  • Doctors have said they are in good physical and mental health -- a view backed up by the footage made available by the Thai government showing them behind quarantine glass in bed wearing smocks and facemasks, flashing peace signs and doing the traditional "wai" greeting.
  • They do not look shell-shocked or stunned despite a potentially harrowing 18 days inside a dank, dark cave followed by a risky rescue operation that was dubbed "Mission Impossible".
  • A screen grab shows people looking through glass at the boys

During their TV news conference, the boys said when they entered the cave on June 23 they had planned to only be inside the cave for about an hour after football practice. But a rainy season downpour flooded the tunnels, trapping them.

The boys had no food and survived only on water. They took turns digging at the cave walls, hoping to find a way out.

"We drank water from stalactites. On the first day we were ok, but after two days we started feeling tired," said Pornchai Kamluang, 16, adding that their coach, Ekkapol Chanthawong, told them to stay still when possible to preserve energy.

"This experience made me stronger and taught me not to give up," said the team's youngest member, who goes by the name Titan.

The boys will eventually spend time as novice Buddhist monks to honour the dead diver's memory, their coach said on Wednesday.

ALSO READ: Boys tried to dig their way out every day while inside cave: Doctor

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