All 12 boys and their football coach were rescued from a Thailand cave complex, the Thai Navy Seals announced Tuesday, marking an end to a dangerous, nail-biting rescue mission closely followed across Thailand and the world.
The last batch of four boys and their coach was extracted Tuesday, the Thai Navy Seals announced in a Facebook post, adding that they were “all safe”.
Eight of the boys were brought out on stretchers over the first two days – four on Sunday and four on Monday.
Earlier Tuesday, the head of the operation, Narongsak Osottanakorn, said the final operation would be “more challenging” because one more survivor would be brought out, along with three Navy SEALs who have been accompanying them.
The rescuers had been learning from experience and were two hours faster in bringing the second batch of survivors out on Monday.
However, scattered monsoon rains continued to risk percolating through the limestone cave walls to flood the tunnels with fast-flowing water.
A crack team of foreign divers and Thai Navy SEALS had been guiding the boys out through nearly 4km (2.5 miles) of sometimes submerged, pitch-dark channels.
Hungry for chocolate
The “Wild Boars” football team and their coach became trapped on June 23 when they set out to explore the vast cave complex after football practice, when a rainy season downpour flooded the tunnels.
British divers found the 13, huddled on a muddy bank in a partly flooded chamber several kilometres inside the complex, on Monday last week.
The eight boys brought out on Sunday and Monday were in good health overall, and some asked for chocolate bread for breakfast, officials said.
Two of the boys had suspected lung infections but the four boys from the first group rescued were all walking around their hospital beds.
They are still being quarantined from their parents because of the risk of infection and would likely be kept in hospital for a week to undergo tests, officials said.
People across Thailand, and the world, have cheered the rescue operation, including at the Mae Sai Prasitsart school where six of the trapped boys are students.
Just returned from Cave 3. Mini-sub is ready if needed. It is made of rocket parts & named Wild Boar after kids’ soccer team. Leaving here in case it may be useful in the future. Thailand is so beautiful. pic.twitter.com/EHNh8ydaTT
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 9, 2018
Technology billionaire Elon Musk went into the cave on Monday and left the rescue team with a “kid-sized” submarine his company SpaceX had built, Thailand’s interior Minister Anupong Paochinda said.
Musk said on Twitter: “Just returned from Cave 3. Mini-sub is ready if needed. It is made of rocket parts & named Wild Boar after kids’ soccer team. Leaving here in case it may be useful in the future.”
(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)