Boys Soccer Team Found Alive in Cave 9 days After Going Missing
By Tamar Lapin
A group of 12 schoolboys and their soccer coach were found alive Monday after being stuck in a Thai cave for over a week.
“We found them safe. But the operation isn’t over,” Chiang Rai province governor Narongsak Osatanakorn said to reporters, who broke into cheers and applause.
Rescue divers had been working desperately for nine days to save the soccer players — who range in age from 11 to 16 — and their 25-year-old coach.
The group disappeared while on a team outing on June 23, when flooding trapped them inside the Tham Luang Nang Non network of underground caves.
No one had been in contact with the boys since they went missing and it is still unclear how they survived.
“We will take care of them until they can move,” Osatanakorn said, according to the AFP. “We will bring food to them and a doctor who can dive. I am not sure they can eat as they have not eaten for a while.”
Massive rescue efforts that involved the country’s version of the Navy seals, were hampered when heavy rains flooded and blocked access to chambers where the group was thought to be.
But on Monday, divers took advantage of a brief window of good weather to edge further into the cave, pumping water from the cave around-the-clock.
The team, named the “Wild Boars,” were found 132 feet below the surface.
The captivating search for the group brought in cave rescue experts from the US military, the UK, China and Australia.
Family and friends held vigils outside the cave entrance, praying they’d see the young players again.
A relieved mom named Tinnakorn Boonpiem, whose 12-year-old son was missing in the cave, worried what lasting affects the incident would have on him.
“I’m so glad… I want to him to be physically and mentally fit. I am afraid he will be mentally affected by this incident,” she told the AFP.