World

Thai cave boys rescue ends in success

Divers in northern Thailand have rescued all 12 boys and their football coach from flooded caves, 17 days after they got trapped underground.

The plight of the group and the massive, dangerous operation to free them has gripped the world’s attention.

The first of the boys were brought out on Sunday but the last of the group were only freed on Tuesday evening.

They got stuck deep inside the caves on 23 June after heavy rains caused flooding and cut off their route out.

Aged between about 11 and 17, the members of the Wild Boars football team had entered the Tham Luang cave system in the province of Chiang Rai during an excursion with their coach.

After they were found by British divers last week, huddled in darkness on a ledge and cut off from the outside world for nine days, the race began to get them out before the weather deteriorated even further.

The first eight boys to be rescued, on Sunday and Monday, are still in hospital but said to be in good mental and physical health.

They have undergone X-rays and blood tests, and will remain under observation in hospital for at least seven days.

Confirming the completion of the rescue operation, the Thai Navy Seals Facebook page announced: “All 12 Wild Boars and coach have been extracted from the cave. All are safe.”

In an indication of how dangerous the journey was, a former Thai navy diver diedin the caves on Friday. Saman Gunan was returning from a mission to provide the group with air tanks when he ran out of oxygen.

How were they rescued?

A team of 90 expert divers – 40 from Thailand and 50 from overseas – worked in the Tham Luang caves.

They guided the boys and their coach through darkness and submerged passageways towards the mouth of the cave system.

Graphic showing how the boys leave the cave
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Getting to and from the trapped group was an exhausting round trip, even for experienced divers.

The process included a mixture of walking, wading, climbing and diving along guide ropes.

Wearing full-face masks, which are easier for novice divers than traditional respirators, each boy was accompanied by two divers, who also carried his air supply.

A map of cave system where a group of Thai schoolboys are trapped

The toughest part was about halfway out at a section named “T-Junction”, which was so tight that the divers had to take off their air tanks to get through.

Beyond that a cavern – called Chamber 3 – was turned into a forward base for the divers.

There the boys could rest before making the last, easier walk out to the entrance. They were then taken to hospital in Chiang Rai.

The last of the rescue team – three Thai Navy Seals and a doctor – emerged from the cave complex some hours after the last member of the trapped group was released.

BBC

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