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As it happenedended1531316401

Thai cave rescue: Trapped team and coach now free and receiving hospital treatment - as it happened

Matt Blomberg
Chiang Rai
,Adam Withnall,Chris Baynes,Chris Stevenson
Tuesday 10 July 2018 19:43 BST
Thai boys wave to camera in first video since cave rescue

Eighteen days after entering the caves on a team-bonding session, the remaining lost boys and their coach, as well as all rescue and medical personnel, emerged alive and well on Tuesday, following a daring and precarious operation, which saw one volunteer Navy seal lose his life.

Narongsak Osatanaskorn, the former governor who has led the rescue, made the official announcement at 9.45pm on Tuesday evening, after a tense few days of rescue missions.

“I never imagined this could happen – but we did it. We completed mission impossible,” the beaming rescue chief told a throng of hundreds of reporters and support crew, before stepping forth and inviting the crowd to join him and pose for photos.

Please allow the live blog a moment to load

The team of expert divers from Thailand and around the world completed their improbable mission some 60 hours after a round-the-clock operation was launched on Sunday morning, as seasonal monsoon rains threatened to trap the boys and their coach inside the caves for months.

The 13 were stranded on a 10-square-metre ledge more than a mile inside the cave without proper food, water, sanitation or sunlight, until they were discovered by a pair of British divers on 2 July.

Conditions improved somewhat after rescuers made contact but fears about poor oxygen levels and the ominous monsoon kept the watching world on edge.

The jubilant rescue chief announced that the families of the five who came out of the cave today would be able to visit their loved ones this evening – a reversal on the previous two batches of four to emerge, who had to wait 24 hours to see theirs.

Gobchai Boon-orrana, the deputy director of Thailand’s department of disaster prevention and mitigation, was equally elated in addressing the crowd.

“Today, I don’t want to talk about work,” he announced.

One of the lead hands on the mission, Mr Gobchai referred to those rescued as his “13 grandsons.”

He joked that Thailand now had a new internationally famous tourist attraction, following wall-to-wall coverage of the cave rescue right around the globe.

Finally, he paid tribute to Saman Gunan, the 38-year-old Navy Seal who lost his life in the caves leading up the eventual rescue, declaring him a hero of the Thai people and the world.

“May he rest in peace – the hero of Thung Luam,” Mr Gobchai said.

Jedsada Chokdumrongsuk, permanent secretary at the Public Health Ministry, said that recovery for the children is being carefully managed

"The kids are footballers so they have high immune systems," Mr Jedsada said. "Everyone is in high spirits and are happy to get out. But we will have a psychiatrist to evaluate them."

It could be at least seven days before they can be released from hospital, Mr Jesada told a news conference.

Mr Jedsada said they were uncertain what type of infections the boys could face "because we have never experienced this kind of issue from a deep cave."


Welcome to The Independent's live blog on day three of the mission to rescue 12 boys and their coach who were stranded in a flooded cave in northern Thailand.

Adam Withnall10 July 2018 06:53

Divers have entered the cave in Thailand where four boys and their football coach remained trapped this morning, hoping to complete a final mission to bring out all five today.

Acting Chiang Rai governor Narongsak Osatanakorn, who is leading the operation, said the international rescue team entered the cave at 10.08am this morning (4.08am BST).

Water levels inside the cave were stable and under control despite ongoing rainfall since around 1am, he said. "Barring abnormalities, all five remaining inside the cave will be brought out today."

Adam Withnall10 July 2018 06:53

A total of 12 boys and the coach went missing on the 23 June when they went to explore the caves after a football match. They spent around nine days trapped on a dry slope in the flooded network without being contacted, and then another week underground while the authorities came up with ideas to get them out. 

The first four boys were rescued on Sunday, and another four were brought out by the same team of divers on Monday. 

Sunday's operation took 11 hours, while day two took just 9 hours, Mr Narongsak said, adding that: "Today, we expect to equal yesterday or even better."

Adam Withnall10 July 2018 06:54

Jedsada Chokdumrongsuk, permanent secretary at the Public Health Ministry, said the first four boys rescued, aged 12 to 16, are now able to eat normal food.

Two of them possibly have a lung infection but all eight are generally "healthy and smiling," he said.

"The kids are footballers so they have high immune systems," Mr Jedsada said. "Everyone is in high spirits and are happy to get out. But we will have a psychiatrist to evaluate them."

It could be at least seven days before they can be released from hospital, Mr Jesada told a news conference.

Family members have seen at least some of the boys from behind a glass isolation barrier, and Mr Jedsada said doctors may let the boys walk around their beds on Tuesday.

Mr Jedsada said they were uncertain what type of infections the boys could face "because we have never experienced this kind of issue from a deep cave."

The second group of four rescued on Monday are aged 12 to 14.

Adam Withnall10 July 2018 07:03

People across Thailand are cheering the rescue operation, including at the Mae Sai Prasitsart school where six of the trapped boys are students.

"I am very happy about those who already made it out and I think everyone will be out today," said Waranchit Karnkaew, 14, who also said the football-mad boys had been closely following games at the World Cup in Russia before they were trapped.

"I want to take my friends to lunch and we will play football together," he told Reuters.

Fifa's president Gianni Infantino had invited the boys to attend the World Cup final in Moscow on Sunday 15 July if they were rescued and recovered on time. 

Health officials have said the boys will be kept in hospital for at least a week for tests and two have minor infections, meaning it looks unlikely at this point that they will make the match.

Here's the full story on Fifa's offer:

Adam Withnall10 July 2018 07:20

Elon Musk has for the past few days been promoting his Space X company's solution to freeing the trapped boys - an advanced miniature submarine.

However, while it was in development and transit to Thailand, it appears to have been rendered redundant by the fact that the mission to free the boys is almost complete, using conventional diving methods. 

Asked at this morning's press conference about Mr Musk's offer, the head of the rescue mission, Narongsak Osatanakorn, confirmed that they would not be able to make use of the submarine.

He recognised the effort made by Mr Musk and his team, but said that "the equipment they brought to help us is not practical with our mission".

He added: "Even though their equipment is technologically sophisticated, it doesn’t fit with our mission to go in the cave."

Adam Withnall10 July 2018 08:00

A pair of Bangkok-based illustrators have shared a touching cartoon of the cave operation, depicting the boys and their rescuers as animals.

The drawing, by Aruni Aunhawarakorn and Jantima Manasviyoungkul, who are behind the Facebook page Sisidea, gives a real flavour of how international these rescue efforts are. 

Among the animals pictured swimming through the tunnels are lions, representing the English divers who first made contact with the trapped boys, seals as Thai Navy divers, a crane for the Japanese rescuers, a kangaroo for the Australians, a moose for the Swedish, a tiger for those from Myanmar, eagle depicting Americans, an elephant for rescuers from Laos.

The boys and their coach are depicted as wild boars, in reference to the name of their football team, and the governor of Narongsak  is a "white elephant" leading their way.

There is even room for the media - depicted as birds - and Elon Musk, who will no doubt appreciate being represented by Iron Man.

The illustrators told the BBC: "We are so, so happy at the news and our cartoon shows our appreciation from the Thai people - to everyone around the world who have been involved in the search as well as those who haven't been mentioned."

Chris Baynes10 July 2018 09:30

An ambulance has just been seen leaving the cave complex where the rescue operation is taking place, according to the Associated Press.

There is no confirmation yet on who, if anyone, was inside, or if a ninth boy has been rescued.

Authorities have said they hope all four boys still trapped, and their coach, will be out by the end of the day.

Chris Baynes10 July 2018 09:51

While we wait for more information on that first ambulance leaving the cave, it is worth noting that today's operation in total will likely take longer than the previous two. 

That's because we expect not only four boys to be extracted, as with Sunday and Monday, but also their coach - who was reportedly in pretty bad shape when they were found more than a week ago by two British volunteers.

And there will also be a departure from the cave for a team of four divers who have been living with the footballers for a week. They include three Navy SEALs and a medic, and are expected to be the last ones out.

"We expect that if there is no unusual condition ... the four boys, one coach, the doctor, and three SEALs who have been with the boys since the first day will come out today," acting governor Narongsak Osatanakorn said earlier.

Adam Withnall10 July 2018 10:17

We are now getting multiple reports following the sighting of an ambulance that a ninth person has indeed been rescued from the cave.

A witness told the Reuters news agency that they saw a person being stretchered from the mouth of the cave, and a source in the rescue mission told the same news agency it was a ninth member of the trapped Wild Boars football team.

The time now in Thailand is about 4.20pm. Given the operation today started just after 10am, it is about the same sort of timing as when the first boy emerged from the cave yesterday.

Adam Withnall10 July 2018 10:20

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