Latest: Joy as daring rescue saves boys and football coach from Thai cave

Update 3.45pm: A daring rescue mission in the treacherous confines of a flooded cave in Thailand has saved 12 boys and their football coach, who were trapped deep within the labyrinth.

The rescue operation ended an 18-day ordeal that claimed the life of an experienced volunteer diver and riveted people around the world.

Cheers erupted at a local government office where dozens of volunteers and journalists were awaiting news of whether the intricate and high-risk rescue mission had succeeded, as helicopters taking the boys to hospital roared overhead.

The youngsters and their 25-year-old coach had been trapped for more than two weeks after heavy rains flooded the sprawling cave network, comprising caverns connected by tight passages.

The cave complex (Sakchai Lalit/AP)

Thailand’s navy Seals, who were central to the rescue effort, said on their Facebook page that the remaining four boys and their 25-year-old coach were all brought out safely on Tuesday.

Eight of the boys were rescued by a team of 18 Thai and international divers on Sunday and Monday.

“We are not sure if this is a miracle, a science, or what. All the thirteen Wild Boars are now out of the cave,” the Seals said, referring to the name of the boys’ football team.

“Everyone is safe.”

Payap Maiming, 40, who helped provide food and necessities to rescue workers and journalists, said a “miracle” had happened.

“I’m happy for Thais all over the country, for the people of Mae Sai, and actually just everyone in the world because every news channel has presented this story and this is what we have been waiting for,” she said.

“It’s really a miracle. It’s hope and faith that has brought us this success.”

The plight of the boys and their coach has captivated Thailand and much of the world – from the heartbreaking news that they were missing to the first flickering video of the huddle of anxious yet smiling boys when they were found 10 days later

They were trapped in the Tham Luan Nang Non cave on June 23, when they were exploring it after football practice and it became flooded by monsoon rains.

(PA Graphics)

Each of the boys, aged 11 to 16 and with no diving experience, was guided out by a pair of divers in three days of intricate and high-stakes operations.

The route, in some places just a crawl space, had oxygen canisters positioned at regular intervals to refresh each team’s air supply.

Highlighting the dangers, a former Thai navy Seal died on Friday while replenishing the canisters.

Cave diving experts had warned it was potentially too risky to dive the youngsters out.

But Thai officials, acutely aware that the boys could be trapped for months by monsoon rains that would swell waters in the cave system, seized a window of opportunity provided by relatively mild weather.

A massive water pumping effort also made the winding cave more navigable.

The confidence of the diving team, and expertise specific to the cave, grew after its first successful mission.

Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, speaking before the final rescue was completed, said the boys were given an anti-anxiety medication to help with their perilous removal from the cave.

Asked at a press conference if the boys had been sedated, Mr Prayuth said: “Who would chloroform them? If they’re chloroformed, how could they come out? It’s called anxiolytic, something to make them not excited, not stressed.”

Mr Prayuth said the Tham Luan Nang Non cave would be closed for some time to make it safe for visitors.

The eight boys brought out by divers on Sunday and Monday were doing well and were in good spirits, a senior health official said.

They were given a treat on Tuesday: bread with chocolate spread that they had requested.

Jedsada Chokdumrongsuk, permanent secretary at the Public Health Ministry, said the first four boys rescued were able to eat normal food, though they could not yet take the spicy dishes favoured by many Thais.

Two of the boys possibly have a lung infection but all eight are generally “healthy and smiling”, he said.

“The kids are footballers so they have high immune systems,” Mr Jedsada said.

“Everyone is in high spirits and are happy to get out. But we will have a psychiatrist to evaluate them.”

It could be at least seven days before they can be released from hospital, Mr Jedsada told a news conference.

Family members have seen at least some of the boys from behind a glass isolation barrier.

Mr Jedsada said they were uncertain what type of infections the boys could face “because we have never experienced this kind of issue from a deep cave”.

If medical tests show no dangers, after another two days parents will be able to enter the isolation area dressed in sterilised clothing and staying two metres away from the boys, said Tosthep Bunthong, a public health official.

John Tangkitcharoenthawon, a local village chairman who was working as a volunteer translator for the tourist police, was bursting with happiness at the successful rescue.

“If this place had a roof, the morale has gone straight through it,” he said.

US President Donald Trump joined those paying tribute to the rescuers.

“On behalf of the United States, congratulations to the Thai Navy SEALs and all on the successful rescue of the 12 boys and their coach from the treacherous cave in Thailand,” he tweeted.

He added: “Such a beautiful moment – all freed, great job!”

- Press Association

Earlier: All 12 boys and coach rescued from Thai cave

Update 12.50pm: All 12 boys and their football coach have been rescued from a flooded cave in northern Thailand, ending an ordeal that lasted more than two weeks, the country’s navy Seals said.

The remaining four boys and coach were rescued on Tuesday, after other rescues in the previous two days.

The rescue mission began at 10.08am local time and involved 19 divers.

The youngsters and their 25-year-old coach have been trapped for more than two weeks after heavy rains flooded the sprawling cave network, comprising caverns connected by tight passages.

The Seals said they are still waiting for a medic and three navy Seals who stayed with the boys to emerge from the cave.

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney described the rescue as "a fantastic story of human endurance with such a positive outcome".

Local police place umbrellas around an evacuation helicopter (Sakchai Lalit/AP)

The 'Wild Boars' team and their rescuers have been invited to Old Trafford by Manchester United.

"MUFC is relieved to learn that the 12 footballers and their coach trapped in a cave in Thailand are now safe. Our thoughts and prayers are with those affected.

"We would love to welcome the team from Wild Boars Football Club and their rescuers to Old Trafford this coming season."

Update 12.30: Three ambulances with flashing lights have been seen leaving the site of the cave rescue.

Latest: Eleventh person rescued from Thai cave

Update 11.15am: Eleven people have now been rescued from a flooded cave in Thailand.

A Reuters witness reports that the person was seen being carried out on a stretcher.

There are now just two more people to rescue.

The rescue mission began at 10.08am local time and involves 19 divers.

Latest: Tenth person rescued from Thai cave

Update 10.40am: Ten people have now been rescued from the cave, Reuters reports.

A witness says another person has been carried out on a stretcher.

It is the second person to be rescued today.

There are now just three people left to rescue.

Digital Desk

Earlier: Ninth person rescued from Thai cave

Update 10.25am: Another person has been rescued from the cave in Thailand and taken to hospital, according to Reuters.

This brings the total number of those rescued to nine, an official involved with the rescue mission says.

AFP reports that it is a boy, citing police and navy sources.

The Navy Seals said on their Facebook page that "the 9th Wild Boar was out of the cave at 4:06 p.m" on Tuesday, referring to the name of the trapped boys' football team.

An ambulance has been seen leaving the scene of the operation.

Officials are hoping to complete the rescue today.

Digital Desk

Earlier: Third phase of Thai cave rescue mission underway

Update 6.39am: A third rescue operation to bring out the remaining four boys and their football coach from a flooded cave in Thailand has begun.

Chiang Rai governor Narongsak Osatanakorn said the rescue mission began at 10.08am local time and involves 19 divers.

He said a medic and three Seals in the cave, who have been looking after those trapped, will also come out.

Mr Narongsak said: “We expect that if there is no unusual condition … the four boys, one coach, the doctor, and three Seals who have been with the boys since first day will come out today.”

(PA Graphics)

Earlier, the eight boys rescued after being trapped for more than two weeks were described as generally healthy.

Jedsada Chokdumrongsuk, permanent secretary at the Public Health Ministry, said the first four boys rescued, aged 12 to 16, are now able to eat normal food.

Two of them possibly have a lung infection but all eight are generally “healthy and smiling,” he said.

“The kids are footballers so they have high immune systems,” Mr Jedsada said. “Everyone is in high spirits and are happy to get out. But we will have a psychiatrist to evaluate them.”

Seven divers in the rescue team are from the UK, including Rick Stanton and John Volanthen who were the first to reach the group last week. The British Cave Rescue Council has been posting updates throughout the operation.

MEDIA BRIEFING NOTE Number 12 – 9 July 2018Further progress on the rescue operation to bring the boys out of Tham…

Posted by British Cave Rescue Council – BCRC on Monday, July 9, 2018

It could be at least seven days before they can be released from hospital, Mr Jesada told a news conference.

Family members have seen at least some of the boys from behind a glass isolation barrier, and Mr Jedsada said doctors may let the boys walk around their beds on Tuesday.

Mr Jedsada said they were uncertain what type of infections the boys could face “because we have never experienced this kind of issue from a deep cave.”

The second group of four rescued on Monday are aged 12 to 14.

Monday’s rescue effort took about nine hours, two fewer than the day before, in a sign of growing confidence and expertise.

Each of the rescued boys has been guided through the dark winding cave by two pairs of divers.

- Press Association

 

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