World

All 13 rescued from flooded Thai cave

Agencies Mae Sai | Updated on July 10, 2018 Published on July 10, 2018

Rescue personnel walk at the site of the Tham Luang cave complex during a mission to rescue the remaining members of a soccer team trapped in a flooded cave in Chiang Rai, Thailand.   -  Reuters

Eight rescued on first two days of operation

All 12 boys and their soccer coach trapped for more than two weeks deep inside a flood Thai cave have been rescued, a Thai navy SEAL unit said on Tuesday, a successful end to a perilous mission that has gripped the world. “The 12 Wild Boars and coach have emerged from the cave and they are safe,” the Thai navy SEAL unit said on its official Facebook page.

The “Wild Boars” soccer team and their coach got trapped on June 23 while exploring the cave complex in the northern province of Chiang Rai after soccer practice and a rainy season downpour flooded the tunnels.

British divers found the 13, hungry and huddled in darkness on a muddy bank in a partly flooded chamber several kilometres inside the complex, on Monday last week. After pondering for days how to get the 13 out, a rescue operation was launched on Sunday when four of the boys were brought out, tethered to rescue divers.

Another four were rescued on Monday and the last four boys and the coach were brought out on Tuesday. Celebrations will be tinged with sadness over the loss of a former Thai navy diver who died last Friday while on a re-supply mission inside the cave in support of the rescue.

A Reuters witness saw three people being carried out of the Tham Luang cave on stretchers separately on Tuesday, the third day of the rescue operation. Eight of the boys were brought out on stretchers over the first two days - four on Sunday and four on Monday.

Officials were not immediately available to comment on who had been brought out, and it was not clear what condition they were in. A person with knowledge of the rescue said just before the eleventh person was spotted, that 10 people had been brought out.

Earlier in the day, the head of the operation, Narongsak Osottanakorn, said the boys, aged from 11 to 16, and their 25-year-old coach, ventured into the Tham Luang cave on June 23 after football practice and got caught deep inside when heavy rains caused flooding that trapped them on a muddy ledge. With rain again pounding the cave site in a mountainous region in northern Thailand on Tuesday morning, rescuers said they were aiming to bring out the remaining four boys and their coach by the evening.

“(They) will be extracted today,” rescue chief Narongsak Osottanakorn told reporters, adding the journey out should be faster than on previous days. The emergence of the second batch of four boys on Monday evening was greeted with a simple “Hooyah” by the SEAL team on their Facebook page, an exclamation that lit up Thai social media, while positive medical reports on the rescued group further fuelled the sense of joy.

 

All eight are in good health, no fever... everyone is in a good mental state,” Jedsada Chokdamrongsuk, permanent secretary of the public health ministry, told reporters Tuesday at Chiang Rai hospital where the boys were recuperating. However the boys - aged between 12 and 16 - would remain in quarantine until doctors were sure they had not contracted any infections from inside the cave.

Experts warned that drinking contaminated water or otherwise being exposed to bird or bat droppings in the cave could lead to dangerous infections. But the early signs were promising, with X-rays and blood tests showing just two had signs of pneumonia and that they were in a “normal state” after taking antibiotics, Jedsada said.

The rescuers have been learning from experience and were two hours faster in bringing the second batch of survivors out on Monday. However, scattered monsoon rains continued to risk percolating through the limestone cave walls to flood the tunnels with fast-flowing water. “I hope today we will be faster or the same speed as yesterday,” Narongsak said.

A crack team of foreign divers and Thai Navy SEALS has been guiding the boys out through nearly 4 km (2.5 miles) of sometimes submerged, pitch-dark channels.

The “Wild Boars” soccer team and their coach got trapped on June 23 when they set out to explore the vast cave complex after soccer practice, when a rainy season downpour flooded the tunnels.

British divers found the 13, huddled on a muddy bank in a partly flooded chamber several kilometres inside the complex, on Monday last week. The eight boys brought out on Sunday and Monday were in good health overall and some asked for chocolate bread for breakfast, officials said.

Two of the boys had suspected lung infections but the four boys from the first group rescued were all walking around their hospital beds. They are still being quarantined from their parents because of the risk of infection and would likely be kept in hospital for a week to undergo tests, officials said.

Four more of the boys were carried on stretchers out of the labyrinthine Tham Luang cave on the Myanmar border at dusk on Monday, bringing to eight the number brought out after two rescue pushes on successive days.

People across Thailand, and the world, have cheered the rescue operation, including at the Mae Sai Prasitsart school where six of the trapped boys are students.

Technology billionaire Elon Musk went into the cave on Monday and left the rescue team with a “kid-sized” submarine his company SpaceX had built, Thailand's interior Minister Anupong Paochinda said. Musk said on Twitter: “Just returned from Cave 3. Mini-sub is ready if needed. It is made of rocket parts & named Wild Boar after kids' soccer team. Leaving here in case it may be useful in the future.”

Published on July 10, 2018
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor