(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)
Thailand cave rescue: Boys found alive after nine days
All 12 boys and their football coach have been found alive after nine days missing in caves in Thailand, in a drama that gripped the nation.
All of them are safe, an official confirmed, speaking after the mammoth search operation in the Tham Luang caves in Chiang Rai.
The challenge now will be to extract the party safely, with rising water and mud impeding access.
Families of the missing group were ecstatic at news of the rescue.
The missing group were discovered by naval special forces, Chiang Rai governor Narongsak Osottanakorn said.
Rescuers had hoped they would find safety on a ledge in an underground chamber nicknamed Pattaya Beach but they were found 400 metres (440 yards) away having moved to higher ground to avoid the rising water.
In video posted on Facebook by Thai Navy SEAL, one of the rescuers can be heard speaking in English to the group, as they sit on a ledge above water in a cavern, picked out by torchlight.
“How many of you?” the rescuer, who appears to be English, asks.
The group’s plight has gripped the country and led to an outpouring of support.
The boys aged 11 to 16 and their coach went to explore the caves on 23 June.
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An uplifting breakthrough
By Jonathan Head, BBC News, Tham Luang
There are scenes of jubilation here at the cave entrance – drowned out by the generators powering the water pumps and filling the air tanks for the dozens of divers whose persistence in the toughest of underground conditions has paid off.
Now the authorities must figure out how to extract them. The first priority is to get them medical treatment and food where they are, to rebuild their strength.
The whole country has watched every stage of this operation, holding its breath for what seemed an increasingly unlikely happy ending.
They are not out yet but this is an uplifting breakthrough after the Thai government threw everything it could to try to save these boys’ lives.
Who are the group in the cave?
- The 12 boys are members of the Moo Pa – or Wild Boar – football team.
- Their 25-year-old assistant coach, Ekkapol Janthawong, is known to have occasionally taken them out on day trips – including a trip to the same cave two years ago.
- The youngest member, Chanin “Titan” Wibrunrungrueang, is 11 – he started playing football aged seven.
- Duangpet “Dom” Promtep, 13, is the team captain and said to be the motivator of the group.
- The club’s head coach Nopparat Kantawong who did not join the group on their excursion, says he believes the boys, who dream of becoming professional football players in the future, will stick together.
- “I believe they won’t abandon each other,” he told media outlets. “They will take care of each other.”
“They are all safe but the mission is not completed,” the Chiang Rai governor told a press conference at the command centre at the cave entrance.
“Our mission is to search, rescue and return. So far we just found them. Next mission is to bring them out from the cave and send them home.”
The governor said they would continue to drain water out of the cave while sending doctors and nurses to dive into the cave to check the health of the boys and their coach.
“If the doctors say their physical condition is strong enough to be moved, they will take them out from the cave,” he said.
“We will look after them until they can return to school.”
More than 1,000 people have been involved in the rescue operation, including teams from China, Myanmar, Laos, Australia and the US.