Twelve boys and their football coach trapped in a flooded Thai cave for nine days were found alive late yesterday, sparking elation after days of painstaking searching by specialist divers through muddy waters and winding tunnels.
There had been no contact with the boys, aged between 11 and 16, since they went missing with their 25-year-old coach last Saturday. The massive rescue effort had for days been hampered by heavy rains that flooded the Tham Luang cave in northern Thailand, blocking access to chambers where it was hoped the group would be found alive.
But late yesterday Chiang Rai provincial governor broke the news of their rescue by naval divers, delighting a nation which has anxiously followed every twist and turn of the dramatic effort to save them.
“We found all 13 safe… we will take care of them until they can move,” Narongsak Osottanakorn told reporters, who broke into spontaneous applause and cheering. “We will bring food to them and a doctor who can dive. I am not sure they can eat as they have not eaten for a while.”
As at press time, the condition of the group was not immediately clear after days underground.
But overjoyed relatives who had clustered near the cave in an increasingly desperate vigil hugged and smiled as news of the miracle rescue filtered back.
“I’m so glad… I want to him to be physically and mentally fit,” said Tinnakorn Boonpiem, whose 12-year-old son Mongkol is among the 13. “I found out from the television… I’m so happy I can’t put it into words,” another relative of one of one of the group told television reporters with tears of joy streaming down his cheeks.
Earlier yesterday divers took advantage of a brief window of good weather to edge further into the cave, with the water levels dropping slowly but steadily every hour thanks to round-the-clock pumping.