Rescuers freed the last four of 12 Thai boys and their soccer coach from deep inside a flooded cave on Tuesday, a successful end to a perilous mission that gripped the world for more than two weeks, Reuters reports.
The “Wild Boars” soccer team, aged between 11 and 16, and their 25-year-old coach became trapped on June 23 while exploring the cave complex in Chiang Rai province when a rainy season downpour flooded the tunnels.
“We are not sure if this is a miracle, a science, or what. All the thirteen Wild Boars are now out of the cave,” the Navy SEAL unit, which led the rescue, said on its Facebook page, adding that all were safe.
British divers found the 13, hungry and huddled in darkness on a muddy bank in a partly flooded chamber several kilometers inside the Tham Luang cave complex, on Monday last week.
After pondering for days how to get the 13 out, a rescue operation was launched on Sunday when four of the boys were brought out, tethered to rescue divers.
Another four were rescued on Monday and the last four boys and the coach were brought out on Tuesday, prompting rounds of spontaneous applause.
Celebrations were tinged with sadness over the loss of a former Thai navy diver who died on Friday while on a re-supply mission inside the cave, Reuters noted.
Rescuers brought out the last five on stretchers, one by one over the course of Tuesday, and they were taken by helicopter to hospital.
The chief of the rescue mission, addressing reporters at the end of the 17-day effort, confirmed that a medic and all navy SEAL divers involved in the rescue mission had also left the cave safely.
“Nobody thought we could do it. It was a world first,” Narongsak Osottanakorn said. “It was Mission Possible for Team Thailand.
“The heroes this time are people all over the world,” he added, referring to the multinational team that assisted in the operation.
Officials said details of the rescue operation would be revealed on Wednesday.
The eight boys brought out on Sunday and Monday were said to be in good health overall.
The boys were still being quarantined from their parents because of the risk of infection and would likely be kept in hospital for a week for tests, officials said earlier.
Volunteers from as far away as Australia and the US helped with the effort to rescue the boys. US military personnel also helped.
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