Divers have successfully rescued all the 12 boys and their football coach from a cave in Thailand, bringing their ordeal to an end 17 days after they were cut off by monsoon flood.
The boys, ages 11-16, went missing with their 25-year-old coach while on an expedition from a local football club in Chiang Rai Province on June 23. Authorities commenced immediate search for them and the first connection was made on July 3.
The first set of four boys was rescued on July 5, and the rest came out in subsequent batches.
Intense jubilation from relatives and members of the rescue team followed the boys’ rescue Tuesday.
The search team contained international cave divers and other technical support from across the world. Experts from Australia, Britain, Japan and China, including more than 30 US military personnel, participated in the rescue with 1,000 Thai rescuers.
One of the divers died during the rescue mission last week.
The boys left their bicycles and other belongings at the mouth of the cave before going in July 23 afternoon, only for heavy monsoon to flood the cave shortly thereafter.
It was initially feared that the team would find it difficult to overcome rising flood waters in the cave after days of heavy rain, with family members waiting anxiously for news of life.
Officials said the boys are in good condition and they are all now recuperating at the hospital.
There were initial concerns about how the boys would be rescued after they were found alive on July 3. Suggestions on how to rescue them included whether to leave them in the cave for another four months when the monsoon season would ease out. But there were uncertainties around that option, with experts saying there could be an exponential rise in flood water that could flush the boys from the tip they had been hanging.
To rescue the boys, divers embarked on massive and consistent pumping out of flood waters in order to advance to the large, sandy and dry chamber where the boys had clung to for days. Food and other supplies were passed to the boys by divers shortly after they were first found, and experts said they had been able to survive only on water for so long because they were still young.
Their ordeal drew the attention of the world, with prayers being said daily towards their safety from several countries. President Muhammadu Buhari also joined world leaders to commend Thai authorities for the rescue efforts and pray for the safe rescue of the boys.