Football team missing for 9 days found trapped in a flooded cave in Thailand (VIDEO)
The sudden and almost traceless disappearance of the Wild Boar football team in northern Thailand on June 23 had kept the whole island nation on its toes for nine days, with parents and those who were glued to TV updates fearing the worst.
However, after more than a week of no news and fading hopes, two British divers, part of an international team of rescuers involved in the effort, reached the so-called Pattaya Beach deep-water cave, where the boys and their mentor were holing up, on Monday.
The Thai Navy SEALs, who have been leading the large-scale search and rescue operation, posted a heartwarming video on its FB page, showing the moment the British divers first saw the frail-looking boys, crammed on a narrow ledge in complete darkness.
"How many of you?" one of the rescuers said in English. As the cave's prisoners respond that all 13 of them were there, the rescue is seen exclaiming: "Thirteen? Brilliant!" As the boys are thanking their finders, the divers had to upset them, revealing that their ordeal is not yet over.
"We are coming, it's OK, many people are coming ... we are the first," the diver says.
With the whole country and especially the boys' relatives breathing a sigh of relief after days of suspense, the most challenging work has now begun.
It is as-yet unclear whether the rescuers will wait till the water goes down, which is difficult to predict as heavy rains –that are set to continue– are hampering efforts to pump out water from around the refuge. In case it proves impossible for the moment, the rescuers may try to teach the boys how to dive so they can leave the cave by themselves, according to Capt. Akanand Surawan from the Royal Navy.
A nurse and a doctor have been sent to the cave, accompanied by divers, while several divers stay with the boys to oversee them and keep their spirits up.
Apart from providing the stranded footballers with much-needed food supplies, survival kits and medical assistance, the authorities will also be pumping fresh air into the cave, so the boys can breathe easily.
The drama which has been gripping the locals has also caught the attention of the world, sparking an international effort that saw such big-name nations as the UK, China, the US and Australia offering their contributions.
The boys, all aged between 11-16, and their 25-year-old coach got trapped by accident, when they decided to explore the Tham Luang Nang Non cave system, popular with tourists. However, the heavy rainfall cut them off. Late last week, rescuers managed to find another entrance to the system, a narrow hole some 1.5 meters in diameter and over 22 meters (72 feet) deep, that was leading to the opening of the cave. The lucky discovery deep in the jungle made the rescue possible. When the rescuers first reached the cave system, it was flooded, and they had to go another 300 to 400 meters before they spotted the stranded boys.