Hooyah! All 12 Thai boys and coach safely rescued

Excited scooter drivers watch and record the moment as ambulances transport the last rescued schoolboys from a helipad to hospital in Chiang Rai, Thailand
Excited scooter drivers watch and record the moment as ambulances transport the last rescued schoolboys from a helipad to hospital in Chiang Rai, Thailand
Image: Linh for Pham/ Getty Images

All 12 boys and their coach trapped in a flooded Thai cave for more than two weeks have been rescued, the Thai Navy Seals announced on Tuesday, completing an incredible rescue mission that has captivated the world.

The Thai Seals and elite foreign divers extracted the final batch of four boys, plus the 25year-old coach, on Tuesday afternoon via a perilous escape route that required them to squeeze through narrow, water-filled tunnels.

“All 12 ‘Wild Boars’ and coach have been extracted from the cave,” the Seals said in a Facebook post.

“All are safe,” they added, signing off with what has become their trademark “Hooyah” to celebrate the successful extractions of the other boys over the previous two days.

The 12 boys, aged from 11 to 16, and their coach ventured into the Tham Luang cave in mountainous northern Thailand on June 23 after football practice and got caught deep inside when heavy rains caused flooding that trapped them on a muddy ledge.

They spent nine harrowing days trapped in darkness until two British divers found them, looking gaunt but otherwise offering smiles to the divers and appearing to be in remarkably good spirits.

But the initial euphoria at finding them dissipated as authorities struggled to devise a safe plan to get them out, with the shelf more than 4km deep inside the cave and the labyrinth of tunnels leading to them filled with water.

Authorities considered ideas such as drilling holes into the mountain or waiting months until monsoon rains ended and they could walk out, with the rescue chief at one point dubbing the efforts to save them “Mission Impossible”.

With oxygen levels in their chamber falling to dangerous levels and monsoon rains threatening to flood the cave where the boys were sheltering, rescuers decided to go ahead with the option of divers escorting them out.

The escape route was a challenge for even experienced divers. The death of a former Thai Navy Seal diver who ran out of oxygen in the cave on Friday underscored the dangers of the escape route.

The rescue bid entranced Thailand and also fixated a global audience.

Now they are out, concerns are set to focus on the physical and mental toll of the ordeal.

The boys will remain in quarantine in hospital until doctors are sure they have not contracted any infections from inside the cave.

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