Thai cave rescue: All 12 Wild Boars and their coach rescued, country erupts in celebration
Thailand broke into celebrations on Tuesday after the last four boys and their football coach were safely rescued from a flooded underground cave they were stranded in since the past two weeks.
The head of the joint command center coordinating the rescue operation, Narongsak Osatanakorn, said: "Today Thai people, team Thailand, achieved mission impossible."
Eight of the stranded boys had been rescued on Sunday and Monday, and the rescue team was hoping to retrieve the rest on Tuesday and end an ordeal that has captivated the world for the past two weeks.
The boys and the soccer coach were first spotted by a team of elite British divers last week on Monday who volunteered to help in the search and rescue efforts. The divers — one of the best in the world — succeeded in spotting the team huddled together on a rocky slope in the darkness, emaciated. The soccer team, which calls themselves Wild Boar, went missing during an excursion with their coach when they decided to walk into the Tham Luang cave network on June 23 and were trapped because of the rising waters.
A massive rescue operation was launched involving more than 1,000 rescuers and volunteers after the football team's head coach reportedly found their bags and bikes near the cave entrance.
On Monday, after the second batch of rescued children were rushed to hospitals for medical checkup, the rescue team prepped for the second phase of the rescue mission to save the rest of the stranded boys and their coach.
Reports state that the first of the remaining four boys in the cave emerged before 4pm on Tuesday and was taken to hospital in Chiang Rai, the nearest city. Shortly after the boy was rescued, there was confirmation of two more being saved.
The Thai Navy Seals — who have led the entire rescue operation — announced nearly two hours after the confirmation that the entire football team and their coach had been successfully saved.
The Seals posted on their official Facebook page saying: "The 12 Wild Boars and coach have emerged from the cave and they are safe. Hooyah."
After over two weeks of harrowing search and rescue operation, Mae Sai, where the children's football club is based, is celebrating the return of their boys.
One of the football club's advisers, Kamon Chanthapun, said: "I am so happy! I was so worried because they are just children, stuck for so long in the dark."
There were reports of crowds walking into the streets and celebrating and groups of young men riding through the town to cheer after the announcement of the successful rescue process.
One of the parents whose boys were rescued on Monday, Namhom Boonpiam, while talking to the Guardian said that she was "happy" that her son Mongkol is safe bit she is also "sleepy."
Osatanakorn on Tuesday said that the parents of the children will soon be able to see their boys in hospital. However, they will have to see them through a glass window as doctors are keeping the children in isolation to check for any possible infections. The parents were at the cave site throughout the two weeks marathon search and rescue operation.