For more than two weeks, four of the young Thai soccer players trapped in a partially flooded cave were rescued Sunday July 8, and authorities said the operation went better than planned.
The four boys ages 11-16, were among 12 members of the Wild Boars team who ventured deep into the cave along with their 25-year-old coach on June 23.
“After 16 days of waiting, we get to see the faces of the Wild Boars,” Chiang Rai Gov. Narongsak Osottanakorn said.
An international team of divers and support crews were assembled to aid the rescue.
“The U.S. is working very closely with the Government of Thailand to help get all of the children out of the cave and to safety,” President Donald Trump tweeted. “Very brave and talented people!”
Narongsak said each boy was equipped in a full scuba face mask and was accompanied by two divers. Divers brought the first boy from the cave at around 5:40 p.m. local time, under eight hours after the rescue operation started. The second boy came out 10 minutes later. Two hours later, two more boys were extracted 10 minutes apart.
The rescue effort will resume Monday for the eight remaining boys and their coach, Narongsak said. Divers will rest, leaders will evaluate the rescue thus far, and the cave will be prepped with oxygen and other materials required to bring the stranded boys out, he said. Nargonsak said rescuing all the boys could take days.
Narongsak did not discuss the health of the rescued boys, however he did say the extraction went better than expected. Ambulances and helicopters were acquired to carry the boys to a hospital 35 miles away. Plans called for the healthiest boys to be rescued first, and Narongsak has repeatedly said the overall health of the boys was great. An Australian doctor with cave diving experience examined the boys on Sunday and proclaimed them fit for the operation.
How the boys were trapped
After soccer practice on June 23, the boys and their coach hiked more than two miles into the cave. Heavy rains struck the area and parts of their path back to the cave entrance became swollen with floodwaters. A search led by Thai navy SEALs and joined by volunteer divers from around the world was fruitless until Monday, when a pair of British divers came up on the hungry but apparently healthy team.
Why the rescue began Sunday
Mild weather and a break in the rain had brought down the water to the lowest levels since the boys were found. That implied less of the narrow, winding tunnels that make up much of the cave complex were overwhelmed by water, so much of the route out could be walked, meaning less swimming and less time in scuba gear. Most of the boys don’t swim. It was raining Sunday, but Narongsak was optimistic that the rescue could continue Monday.