Thai cave rescue: All 12 boys and football coach free after three-day diving mission
Rescuers have freed all of the Wild Boars football team from a cave in northern Thailand more than two weeks after the 12 boys and their coach were cut off by floodwaters.
It took three missions over three days for a crack team of divers to guide the group one-by-one through the 4-kilometre-long labyrinth.
Much of the journey to the cave’s entrance was through freezing, muddy water that proved challenging for even the Thai Navy SEAL divers.
The children, aged 11 to 16, and their coach, 25-year-old Ekapol Chanthawong, are now being treated at a hospital in the nearby city Chiang Mai.
Medical staff say the eight boys freed from the cave on Sunday and Monday are “health and smiling”, but two may have a lung infection.
Staff previously said their first assessments would focus on the boys’ breathing and signs of hypothermia, as well as a potentially fatal lung infection known as cave disease.
A patient list revealing the identity of the second group that was rescued from the cave.
The coach and the youngest child were among the final five rescued today.
The football team had spent the past week building their strength and learning to dive after they were discovered inside the cave by British divers last Monday.
Videos of the boys shortly after they were found showed them looking frail, thin and exhausted.
The coach was in a weaker condition, having sacrificed his share of their meagre food supplies to give to the boys during the nine days before further help arrived.
Police officers and nurses wearing protective clothing attend a news conference at the Chiang Rai Prachanukroh hospital. (Reuters: Athit Perawongmetha)
Rescuers had planned to keep the team where they were until they could find a safe way to get them out — keeping them supplied until the rainy season ended in October was a possibility.
Diving through the cave was considered to be the most dangerous option given the children could panic in the narrow, underwater sections of the three-hour trip to safety.
But heavy rain forced authorities to move quickly as the rising water inside the cave threatened to shrink the space on the muddy ledge they sat on.
The risks of the mission to free the team were underscored on Friday when a former Thai Navy SEAL died after passing out from lack of oxygen while laying air tanks ahead of the extraction attempt.
Petty Officer First Class Saman Kunan, 38, was working in a volunteer capacity — one of the many hundreds of people from Thailand and around the world who came to help the rescue efforts.
Nineteen Australian personnel were involved in the operation including Adelaide doctor Richard Harris, who played an essential part in assessing which order the boys could leave.
More to come.
Relatives of trapped boys at a check point near the Tham Luang cave complex. (Reuters: Soe Zeya Tun )