Rescuers freed the last four of 12 Thai boys and their football coach from deep inside a flooded cave on Tuesday, successfully ending an extraordinarily perilous mission that has gripped the world for more than two weeks.
The ‘Wild Boars’ soccer team, aged 11-16, and their 25-year-old coach were trapped on June 23 while exploring the cave complex in the northern province of Chiang Rai when rain flooded the tunnels. “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 Navy SEAL unit, which led the rescue, said on its Facebook page, adding that all were safe.
British divers found the 13, hungry and huddled in darkness on a muddy bank in a partly flooded chamber several kilometres in the Tham Luang cave complex, on Monday last week.
After pondering for days over how to get them 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, as spontaneous applause broke out and ambulances and helicopters passed.
Celebrations were tinged with sadness over the death of a former Thai Navy diver on Friday while on a re-supply mission in the cave. “I want to tell the coach, ‘thank you so much for helping the boys survive this long’,” said one Chiang Rai woman, wearing a traditional dress, tears brimming in her eyes.
The last five were brought out of the cave on stretchers, one by one over the course of the day, and taken by helicopter to hospital. Three members of the SEAL unit and an Army doctor, who has stayed with the boys since they were found, were the last people due to come out of the cave, the unit said.
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