The operation to save the 12 boys and their coach in Thailand was delicate and difficult. It involved specialist, cave divers from around the world, using stretchers and face masks to get all 13 out safely.
CGTN’s Tony Cheng filed this report from northern Thailand.
Ambulances arriving at Chiang Rai hospital on Tuesday at night were greeted by cheers. They were celebrating a victory against all the odds. The Wild Boars football team was finally coming home.
The rescue operation was an international affair with divers from the U.K., U.S., Australia and elsewhere assisting the Thai Navy Seals. Bringing young boys who couldn’t swim, through a complicated dive of three hours, was almost unimaginable.
Even the experts had quietly assessed beforehand that it was very unlikely all would survive. The Australian Federal Police had brought twenty tonnes of equipment into the caves and valuable expertise. However, even they were surprised by the success of the rescue.
“It’s amazing what the human being can do. There are extraordinary people doing extraordinary things,” said Glen McEwen, Asia manager for the Australian Federal Police. “When you have a common purpose, particularly when there’s a human element involved, everyone steps up, egos put aside, and it’s hands to the wheel and get on with it. I have to say, everyone did that and it was an absolute pleasure to watch that in motion.”
Watching the rescue closely was Tam Guntawong, Aunt of Aek, the 25-year old coach and last of the group to exit the cave. Since he was orphaned as a boy, he had been like one of her own. The relief to know he was safe was indescribable.
“All my family and neighbors were screaming with joy when I was told they were found alive in the cave,” Guntawong said.
She hasn’t seen him yet, and won’t be able to for several days. However, she’s already prepared the meal he asked for in the note sent from the darkness of the cave, and she never gave up hope he’d return.
“I didn’t think that they’d died. I was certain they’d run for their lives to survive. I even thought they weren’t inside the cave because the rescuers didn’t find any of the snacks they took inside,” she said.
The small, rural community in rural Thailand is slowly getting back to normal. The mountains in the area have been buzzing for weeks with the sound of lorries, helicopters, and search and rescue teams.
The parents and relatives of the 12 boys and their coach haven’t been able to hug their kids. While they no doubt want to, they at the very least know that their boys will definitely be coming home.