All twelve boys and their coach have been rescued, after being trapped in a cave in Thailand for 18 days.The Thai navy Seals, who have been running the operation, confirmed that all 13 members of the Wild Boar football team, have been rescued in an update on its Facebook page.
"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 SEALs said, referring to the name of the boys' soccer team. "Everyone is safe."
Thai cave rescue: Coach apologises to parents of 12 trapped boys; rains preventing evacuation attempt
They said they were waiting for a medic and three SEALs who had stayed with the boys in their dark refuge deep inside the cave complex to come out.
Cheers erupted at a local government office where dozens of volunteers and journalists were awaiting news of whether the intricate and high-risk rescue mission had succeeded.
Helicopters taking the boys to a hospital roared overhead.
People on the street cheered and clapped when ambulances ferrying the boys arrived at the hospital in Chiang Rai city.
The boys, aged from 11 to 16, and their coach, ventured into the Tham Luang cave in mountainous northern Thailand on June 23 after football practice and got trapped when heavy rains caused flooding forcing to take shelter on a muddy ledge.
They spent nine days in darkness until two British divers found them, looking gaunt but otherwise offering smiles to the divers and appearing to be in remarkably good spirits.
But the initial euphoria at finding them dissipated as authorities struggled to devise a safe plan to get them out, with the shelf more than four kilometres (2.5 miles) inside the cave and the labyrinth of tunnels leading to them filled with water.
Authorities mulled ideas such as drilling holes into the mountain or waiting months until monsoon rains ended and they could walk out, with the rescue chief at one point dubbing the efforts to save them "Mission Impossible".
With oxygen levels in their chamber falling to dangerous levels and monsoon rains threatening to flood the cave above the ledge where the boys were sheltering, rescuers decided on the least-worst option of having divers escort them out through the tunnels.
The escape route was a challenge for even experienced divers. The boys had no previous diving experience so the rescuers trained them how to use a mask and breathe underwater via an oxygen tank.
One fear had been that they would panic while trying to swim underwater, even with a diver escorting them.
The death of a former Thai Navy SEAL diver who ran out of oxygen in a flooded area of the cave on Friday underscored the dangers of the escape route.
The ups and downs of the rescue bid entranced Thailand and also fixated a global audience, drawing support from celebrities as varied as US President Donald Trump, football star Lionel Messi and tech giant Elon Musk.
Iceland’s Prime Minister, Katrin Jakobsdottir, was the first world leader to welcome the news. Taking to Twitter, she wrote; "Today, hope, compassion, and courage has won. Warmest wishes for a speedy recovery to all of you brave boys from your friends in Iceland".
Today, hope, compassion, and courage has won. Warmest wishes for a speedy recovery to all of you brave boys from your friends in Iceland. #ThaiCaveRescue— Katrín Jakobsdóttir (@katrinjak) July 10, 2018
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, who offered the mini-submarine to the rescue operation, also added his congratulations.
"Great news that they made it out safely. Congratulations to an outstanding rescue team!", he wrote on Twitter.
Some good feedback from cave experts in Thailand. Iterating with them on an escape pod design that might be safe enough to try. Also building an inflatable tube with airlocks. Less likely to work, given tricky contours, but great if it does.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 7, 2018
US President Donald Trump also joined in the celebrations. “Such a beautiful moment – all freed, great job!” he tweeted.
On behalf of the United States, congratulations to the Thai Navy SEALs and all on the successful rescue of the 12 boys and their coach from the treacherous cave in Thailand. Such a beautiful moment - all freed, great job!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 10, 2018
A message posted on the English Premier League club's Twitter account said: "Our thoughts and prayers are with those affected. We would love to welcome the team from Wild Boars Football Club and their rescuers to Old Trafford this coming season."
Now they are out, concerns are set to focus on the physical and mental toll of the ordeal.
Experts warned that drinking contaminated water or otherwise being exposed to bird or bat droppings in the cave could lead to dangerous infections.
They also said counselling would be needed to deal with the psychological trauma of spending so long not knowing whether they were going to survive.
But there were some promising initial signs.
Medical chiefs reported today morning that the eight boys rescued on Sunday and Monday were in relatively good mental and physical conditions.
"All eight are in good health, no fever... everyone is in a good mental state," Jedsada Chokdamrongsuk, permanent secretary of the public health ministry, said before all 13 had been rescued.
Nevertheless, the boys would remain in quarantine in hospital until doctors were sure they had not contracted any infections from inside the cave.
Meanwhile, experts from a Pune-headquartered firm gave technical support in the operations to rescue a football team trapped inside a cave system in Thailand, the company said in Pune.
After the Indian Embassy recommended to the Thai authorities that they could use Kirlosker Brothers' Limited's (KBL) expertise in "dewatering", the company sent teams from its offices in India, Thailand and the United Kingdom to the site, it said.
Its experts were on site at the cave in Tham Luang since July 5 and offered "technical know-how and advice on dewatering and pumps involved in the rescue operation," said a KBL release.
The KBL had also offered to provide four specialised high capacity Autoprime dewatering pumps, which were kept ready at Kirloskarvadi plant in Maharashtra to be airlifted to Thailand, it said.