Twelve boys and their football coach found alive inside cave in Thailand
TWELVE boys and their football coach have been found alive inside a cave in northern Thailand.
Video released by the Thai navy showed the boys in their football kits sitting on a dry area inside the cave above the water as a spotlight, apparently from a rescuer, illuminated their faces.
Chiang Rai provincial governor Narongsak Osatanakorn said the 13 are in the process of being rescued, but warned they are not out of danger yet.
"We found them safe. But the operation isn't over," he said.
Family members of the missing hugged each other as they cheered the news.
Aisha Wiboonrungrueng, the mother of 11-year-old Chanin Wiboonrungrueng, said she would cook her son a Thai fried omelette, his favourite food, when he returns home.
Rescue divers had spent much of Monday making preparations for a final push to locate the lost footballers, aged 11 to 16, and their 25-year-old coach. They disappeared when flooding trapped them after entering the Tham Luang Nang Non cave in Chiang Rai on June 23.
Mr Narongsak said the divers located them about 300-400 metres past a section of the cave that was on higher ground and was thought to be where the team members and their coach may have taken shelter.
"When the medics have evaluated the kids to see if their health is in good condition, we will care for them until they have enough strength to move by themselves, and then we will evaluate the situation on bringing them out again later," Mr Narongsak said.
In the five-minute navy video, the boys are quiet as they sit down with their legs bent in front of them. They are clad in the kits they apparently were wearing on the morning they disappeared in the cave.
"You are very strong," one of the rescuers says to them in English. One of them asks what day it is, and the rescuer responds, "Monday. Monday. You have been here 10 days".
Anmar Mirza, a leading American cave rescue expert, said many challenges remain for the rescuers. He said the primary decision is whether to try to evacuate the boys and their coach or to supply them in place.
"Supplying them on site may face challenges depending on how difficult the dives are," Mr Mirza, co-ordinator of the US National Cave Rescue Commission.
"Trying to take non-divers through a cave is one of the most dangerous situations possible, even if the dives are relatively easy. That also begets the question: If the dives are difficult then supply will be difficult, but the risk of trying to dive them out is also exponentially greater."
Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha thanked the international experts and rescuers who helped locate the missing for their "tremendous efforts".
"The Royal Thai Government and the Thai people are grateful for this support and co-operation, and we all wish the team a safe and speedy recovery," Mr Prayuth's office said.