All 12 boys and coach found alive in Thai cave after missing 9 days

World Today

Photos taken by Thai Navy SEALs show the boys after being found in the caves.

All 12 boys and their coach have been found alive in the cave where they went missing over a week ago in northern Thailand.

CGTN’s Martin Lowe reports.

Chiang Rai Governor Narongsak Osatanakorn announced at about 10 p.m. Monday local time that the 13 had been found and are being rescued.

Watch the first video after the boys were found:

Video from inside the cave released by the Thai Navy Seals shows the first divers to reach the boys. The divers were from the United Kingdom and the boys shouted “Thank you!” in English and asked what day it was.

“We are very happy! Thank you so much,” one of the boys shouted.

When the news reached those sitting vigil outside the cave, many cheered and hugged after hearing the news, the Thai newspaper The Nation reported.

Doctors with strong diving skills are headed to the location where the team was found where they will determine if the team can be moved out of the cave immediately, The Nation also reported.

The missing Thai soccer team.

Osatanakorn said, “We found them safe. But the operation isn’t over.”

A leading American cave rescue expert says many challenges are ahead for rescue divers.

Anmar Mirza, the U.S. National Cave Rescue Commission coordinator, says the primary decision is now one of whether to try to evacuate them or to supply them in place.

He says “supplying them on site may face challenges depending on how difficult the dives are. Trying to take non-divers through a cave is one of the most dangerous situations possible, even if the dives are relatively easy.”

He says that “if the dives are difficult then supply will be difficult, but the risk of trying to dive them out is also exponentially greater.”

The boys, aged 11 to 16, and their 25-year-old coach went missing when flooding trapped them after entering the Tham Luang Nang Non cave in Chiang Rai province on June 23.

Rescuers in Thailand had scrabbled to clear a constricted passageway for divers deep inside a flooded cave complex on Monday as the search for 12 boys and their soccer coach entered a ninth day.

Prior to the boys’ discover, the divers from a Thai navy SEAL unit were within 500 meters of a chamber containing an elevated rock mound, nicknamed “Pattaya Beach” by cavers, which could have provided the boys with a refuge when rains flooded the cave, blocking the way out.

Family members of one of the missing boy celebrate while camping out near Than Luang cave following news all members of children’s football team and their coach were alive in the cave at Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park in the Mae Sai district of Chiang Rai province late July 2, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA)

Progress had been slow as divers need to widen parts of a narrow 100 meter stretch that they were unable to pass through without their air cylinders becoming jammed.

“This is today’s aim is to widen this hole,” Chiang Rai governor Narongsak Osatanakorn told reporters on Monday before rescuers reached “Pattaya Beach” and before the boys were found.

The boys and their coach disappeared on June 23 during an outing to the Tham Luang cave, which runs for 10 kilometers (6 miles) beneath the mountains in northern Chiang Rai province.

Aside from belongings left at the mouth of the cave and handprints on the walls, no trace of them has been found since.

Thai rescue workers practise medical drills using a helicopter in the Mae Sai district on June 30, 2018, as rescue operations continue for a missing children’s football team and their coach lost in Tham Luang cave. (AFP PHOTO / THAI NEWS PIX / Krit Phromsakla Na SAKOLNAKORN)

National news bulletins have been dominated by updates from the mammoth search involving more than 1,000 personnel, including rescue teams from the United States, Britain, Japan and elsewhere.

Doctors said the boys could survive for days without food, but much would depend on whether they found water clean enough to drink.

The heavy seasonal rains had hampered the search operation, with divers groping their way along the cave walls, barely able to see in the muddy water, but the pumps had helped to bring down water levels in recent days.

Narongsak said that an operations center has been set up in the third chamber, about 1.7 kilometers (a mile) from entrance to the cave.

“Yesterday we carried in 200 air cylinders. Today we aim to have 600 air cylinders in the cave, so the team can operate and stay in the cave without coming out,” he said.

Once more personnel are in place, a search will also be made of the right turn at the T-junction, he added.

As part of the rescue effort, search parties have been lowered down shafts on the mountainside, but it was unclear what progress they had made, or exactly where they were in relation to the “Pattaya Beach” chamber.

At Mae Sai Prasitsart school, where six of the missing boys studied, special prayers were held for the junior soccer team during the morning assembly on Monday.

“I hope all the spirits that we cannot see please help us by releasing the 13 people who are our friends and our brothers,” teacher Takkapong Thammarangsi said as he led the prayers.

Pansa Namyi, 15, said he shared a love of sports with his friend who was among the missing.

“I want to tell him that I am waiting,” Pansa said.

Story by AP and Reuters.

Geary Schindel discusses the Thailand cave rescue operation

CGTN’s Sean Callebs spoke about the Thailand cave rescue operation with Geary Schindel, president of the National Speleological Society, a non-profit that studies and explores caves.