Thai Navy SEALs say all 12 soccer players and their coach have been rescued from a flooded cave, ending an ordeal that lasted more than two weeks.
The SEALs posted on their Facebook page Tuesday that the rescue operation was successful, after earlier posting that the first player of the day was out of the cave at 4:06 p.m. local time (5:06 a.m. ET).
“We are not sure if this is a miracle, a science, or what. All the thirteen Wild Boars are now out of the cave,” the SEALs wrote, referring to the name of the soccer team.
A medic and three Thai Navy SEALs had stayed with the boys on a small, dry shelf deep in the flooded cave and are due to come out as well.
Cheers erupted at a local government office where dozens of volunteers and journalists were awaiting news of whether the intricate and high-risk rescue mission had succeeded. Helicopters taking the boys to a hospital roared overhead.
Chiang Rai Gov. Narongsak Osatanakorn had said earlier Tuesday that the day’s effort might take longer than the previous two rescue missions, but the final four players and coach were out of the cave within 10 hours of the operation’s start. The first day took 11 hours.
Heavy rains in the morning cleared during the day, a reassuring sign for rescuers who feared monsoon rains could imperil the rescue.
The eight boys brought out by divers over the previous two days are in “high spirits” and have strong immune systems because they are soccer players, a senior health official said.
Doctors were being cautious because of the infection risk and were isolating the boys in the hospital. They did get a treat, however: bread with chocolate spread that they had requested.
The boys and their coach were trapped in the Tham Luan Nang Non cave that became flooded by monsoon rains while they were exploring it after a soccer practice June 23. Their plight riveted Thailand and much of the world — from the heart-sinking news they were missing to the first flickering video of the huddle of anxious yet smiling boys when they were found 10 days later by a pair of British divers.
There was one fatality during the dangerous rescue mission. A former Thai navy SEAL died Friday while replenishing oxygen canisters laid at regular intervals along the route out of the sprawling cave.