Thailand cave operation owes its success to over 100 international rescuers

Latest News

In this image made from video, released by the Thailand Government Spokesman Bureau, three of the 12 boys are seen recovering in their hospital beds after being rescued along with their coach from a flooded cave in Mae Sai, Chiang Rai province, northern Thailand. (Thailand Government Spokesman Bureau via AP)

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.

An ambulance believed to be carrying one of the rescued boys from the flooded cave heads to the hospital in Chiang Rai as divers evacuated the remaining boys and their coach trapped at Tham Luang cave in the Mae Sai district of Chiang Rai province, northern Thailand, Tuesday, July 10, 2018. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)

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.

This handout video grab taken from footage released by the Royal Thai Navy on July 11, 2018 shows a member of the “Wild Boars” Thai youth football team being moved on a stretcher during a rescue operation inside the Tham Luang cave in Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park in Mae Sai district. (AFP PHOTO / ROYAL THAI NAVY)

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.”

This handout video grab taken from footage released by the Royal Thai Navy on July 11, 2018 shows a member of the “Wild Boars” Thai youth football team being moved on a stretcher during a rescue operation inside the Tham Luang cave in Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park in Mae Sai district. (AFP PHOTO / Royal Thai Navy)

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.

Peoples celebrate after evacuation in Chiang Rai as divers evacuated some of the 12 boys and their coach trapped at Tham Luang cave in the Mae Sai district of Chiang Rai province, northern Thailand, Tuesday, July 10, 2018. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

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.

This handout video grab taken from footage released by The Thai government public relations department (PRD) and Government spokesman bureau on July 11, 2018 shows members of the “Wild Boars” football team being treated at a hospital in Chiang Rai. (AFP PHOTO / Thai government public relations department (PRD) and Government spokesman bureau / Handout)

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.

In this image made from video, released by Thailand Government Spokesman Bureau, family members watch the rescued boys through a window outside the recovery ward at the Chiang Rai hospital in Chiang Rai province, northern Thailand, Wednesday, July 11, 2018. (Thailand Government Spokesman Bureau via AP)