Twelve Thailand boys who went missing with their coach in a cave on June 23 have been found alive by rescuers.
The boys were found on Tuesday night, nine days after they embarked on an expedition from a local football club in Chiang Rai Province.
“Thai Navy Seals have found all 13 with signs of life,” the governor of Chiang Rai province, Narongsak Osottanakorn, told reporters, outside the cave.
The discovery of the boys, aged between 11 and 16, and their 25-year-old coach was broadcast on Thai television channels, drawing intense jubilation from relatives and members of the rescue team.
The search team expanded into an international operation, with expert cave divers and other support flying in to help from across the world. Experts from Australia, Britain, Japan and China, including more than 30 U.S. military personnel, provided technical support to the 1,000 Thai rescuers that initially responded to the accident.
The boys left their bicycle and other belongings at the mouth of the cave before going in July 23 afternoon, only for heavy monsoon to flood the cave shortly thereafter.
It was initially feared that the team would find it difficult to overcome rising flood waters in the cave after days of heavy rain, with family members waiting anxiously for news of life.
The boys appeared to be in good condition, but rescuers said bringing them out would be difficult. No one could tell how they would be rescued because the system was still flooded.
There are multiple suggestions about how to rescue them, including on whether to leave them there for another four months when the monsoon season would ease out. But there are uncertainties around that option, with experts saying there could be an exponential rise in flood water that could flush the boys from the tip they have been hanging.
Divers have been pumping out flood waters to help rescue teams advance to the large, sandy and dry chamber where the boys have clung to for days. Food and other supplies are being passed to the boys by divers, and experts said they have been able to survive only on water for so long because they are still young.
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