The news that the 12 Thai boys and their relatives have been found alive sparked elation after days of painstaking searching by specialist divers through muddy waters and winding tunnels.

The condition of the group was not immediately clear after days underground.

However, overjoyed relatives who had clustered near the cave in an increasingly desperate vigil hugged and smiled as news of the miracle rescue filtered back.

Tears of joy

“I’m so glad… I want to him to be physically and mentally fit,” said Tinnakorn Boonpiem, whose 12-year-old son Mongkol is among the 13.

“I found out from the television… I’m so happy I can’t put it into words,” another relative of one of one of the group told television reporters with tears of joy streaming down his cheeks.

Earlier on Monday, divers took advantage of a brief window of good weather to edge further into the cave, with the water levels dropping slowly but steadily every hour thanks to round-the-clock pumping.

They had hoped to find the “Wild Boar” team on an elevated ledge dubbed “Pattaya beach”.

But the boys had retreated 300-400 metres further as the ledge was submerged, said Chiang Rai’s Governor Narongsak Osottanakorn.

At 10 km long, Tham Luang cave is one of Thailand’s longest and one of the toughest to navigate, with its snaking chambers and narrow passageways.

A sign outside the site warns visitors not to enter the cave during the rainy season between July and November.

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