Chiang Rai, Thailand: Thais reacted with relief, gratitude and exhilaration today after the successful rescue of the last group of 12 boys and their soccer coach from a flooded cave complex, ending a 17-day ordeal that gripped Thailand and the world.
The last members of the group of 13 from the “Wild Boars” soccer team were brought out of the flooded cave on Tuesday night and taken by helicopter and then by road to a hospital about 70 km (45 miles) from the Tham Luang cave.
They joined their team mates in quarantine there and will remain in hospital. The group was rescued after 17 days inside the vast cave complex in northern Thailand where they had ventured after soccer practice on June 23.
Eight boys were brought out on stretchers over the first two days — four on Sunday and four on Monday.
The youngsters and their coach got trapped while exploring the cave in the northern province of Chiang Rai after soccer practice, when a rainy season downpour flooded the tunnels. British divers found the 13, hungry and huddled in darkness on a muddy bank in a partly flooded chamber several kilometres inside the complex, on Monday last week.
Nineteen divers entered the Tham Luang cave in northern Thailand on a gruelling, hazardous mission to rescue those people still trapped inside. The epic operation, however, was marred by one diver’s death. Saman Gunan, a former Navy Seal diver, is the one who died while taking part in the rescue mission as a volunteer.
The rescue operation could have been a disaster with water pumps draining the area failing just hours after the last boy had been evacuated. Divers and rescue workers were still more than 1.5km inside the cave clearing up equipment when the main pump failed, leading water levels to rapidly increase, three Australian divers involved in the operation said.
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