Dhaka, 10 July, Abnews: A Thai-led international rescue team has freed the remaining five people from a flooded cave in northern Thailand, concluding a dangerous three-day mission that took meticulous planning and captivated the world.
The final four members of 12 boy footballers from the “Wild Boar” team, aged 11 to 16, and their 25-year-old coach were on Tuesday evening taken to a hospital in Chiang Rai, the regional capital of the part of northern Thailand that is home to the Tham Luang cave where they were trapped for 17 days.
Three members of Thailand’s elite Navy Seals force and a doctor who had been inside the cave with the boys were on their way out, the authorities said. The group were trapped by a flash flood on June 23 before being found alive on a muddy ledge inside the cave on July 2. “Twelve boars and the coach have left the cave, and everyone is safe,” the Thai Navy Seals said on their Facebook page shortly before 7pm local time.
“We are still waiting for four frogmen. Hoo-yah.” The mission to free the group began on Sunday, with rescuers assessing rainfall, water levels in different parts of the cave, the boys’ health, and divers’ readiness by the hour as they planned the mission. The exit of the final group was testament to a meticulously planned and technically gruelling mission that tested the skills of some of the world’s foremost cave rescue experts.
Getting the children out required climbing, walking or diving through dark and muddy waters over 3km, and in places squeezing through narrow passages. The children were taken out in pairs, each guided by two divers.
In the end, a mission that some rescue efforts had feared could take months was over in three days. The group’s ordeal brought comparisons with the 33 trapped Chilean miners who were rescued in 2010 after spending 69 days underground. Letters sent by the children to their parents asking for favourite dishes or fewer homework assignments when they got out stirred emotions in Thailand and around the world.
Thais traded images on social media of the young footballers swimming to safety or being guided by adults. The rescuers were fortunate with the weather in northern Thailand, currently in its monsoon season, which was mostly dry over the three days of the mission to extract the group. Rescuers decided to start the mission on Sunday after ruling that water levels were the lowest they would be before expected heavy rains, and the children the readiest they would be to leave.
Thailand’s military led the operation, but the expert team that executed it was dominated by international divers.
Two divers from Britain first found the boys deep inside the cave on a muddy outcrop on July 2, and volunteers joined the effort from the US, China, Australia, and other countries. Donald Trump, the US president, tweeted congratulations to the rescuers, describing the outcome as “a beautiful moment”. Gianni Infantino, the head of Fifa, invited the young footballers to attend the World Cup final in Moscow on July 15, but Thai medical authorities said that the boys would not be well enough to attend.
Thai authorities kept careful control over media coverage of the rescue, pushing reporters back from the cave area, withholding the names of each group of boys rescued, and keeping them in a separate hospital ward away from their parents.
Journalists at a press centre near the cave site cheered as helicopters thought to be carrying the boys to hospital in Chiang Rai flew overhead. – Financial Times