Thai cave rescue: All 12 boys and soccer coach freed
The last remaining member of the Wild Boars soccer team and their assistant coach have been pulled out of a flooded cave in Thailand, bringing an end to a near three-week ordeal that prompted an international rescue effort and captivated audiences around the world.
The 12th boy and his coach were the last of the team to be rescued Tuesday, after a complicated three-day operation to extricate the team, who became trapped on June 23 when rising flood water cut them off deep inside the cave.
In the last 18 days, what began as a local search for the missing 13 turned into a complex rescue operation, involving hundreds of experts who flew in from around the world to help.
The parents of the boys have maintained a constant vigil outside the cave since they went missing, praying for their safe return.
All of the boys and their coach have now been transported to a nearby hospital where eight of their teammates are recuperating after being rescued Sunday and Monday.
The last of the group to emerge from the cave on Tuesday were four Navy SEALs, including a doctor who stayed with the team for a week after their discovery.
“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 Thai Navy SEALS said in a Facebook post confirming the entire soccer team had been rescued.
Nineteen divers entered the cave at 10 a.m. local time Tuesday, many on their third mission in three days, with the aim of bringing everyone inside the cave out.
Tuesday’s rescue took nine hours in total, from the time the divers entered the cave to bringing out the boys and their coach.
Rescued boys recovering in hospital
Earlier Tuesday, more details emerged about the ages and condition of the children already freed from the cave.
All eight boys rescued on Sunday and Monday are being treated in an isolation ward in a Chiang Rai hospital. Medical officials told reporters Tuesday that they’re healthy, fever-free, mentally fit and “seem to be in high spirits.”
Some of the boys have even asked for bread with chocolate spread — which they were given, said Jedsada Chokedamrongsook, the permanent secretary of the Thai Health Ministry. But they’ll mostly be eating a food similar to milk and rich in proteins and nutrients.
Chokedamrongsook said the first group of boys taken out on Sunday were aged 14 to 16. Their body temperatures were very low when they emerged, and two are suspected of having lung inflammation.
Families of the first four have been able to see their children through a glass window, Chokedamrongsook said.
They were also able to talk on the phone. They’ll be allowed to enter the room if tests show the boys are free of infection.
The second group freed on Monday were aged 12 to 14. One had a very slow heartbeat but had responded well to treatment, Chokedamrongsook said. The hospital has sent test samples from the boys to a lab in Bangkok.
Authorities will likely look for signs of Histoplasmosis, also known as “cave disease,” an infection caused by breathing in spores of a fungus often found in bird and bat droppings.
They are all likely to stay in hospital for up to a week, due to their weakened immune systems. Thai Prime Minister Gen. Prayut Chan-ocha visited the hospital Monday, and spoke to relatives and hospital workers.