All members of the football team trapped in a flooded cave network in Thailand have been rescued and the last to leave are on route to hospital.
Thailand’s Navy SEALs, who have been leading the mission to save the boys, said those brought out of the cave today are “all safe”. Four divers who have been living with the team for more than a week are still on their way out.
“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 said, referring to the name of the boys’ football team.
It marks a stunning turnaround in what seemed an almost hopeless situation for the 12 boys and their coach, who spent 17 days trapped on a dry slope surrounded by floodwaters, one mile underground.
Even after they were located in the cave by British volunteer divers, the operation to save the Wild Boars took eight days including planning, culminating in three daring missions to dive the boys out of their cave in stages.
Sections of the route were so narrow that divers could only just squeeze through, pushing their breathing apparatus in front of them, while the oxygen supply in the caves had to be continuously replenished. One former Navy SEAL died while volunteering on the mission, underscoring the danger to all involved.
But with the Thai prime minister in attendance at the scene, the last boy and the team coach were brought out and stretchered to ambulances as dusk fell on Tuesday evening.
Officials have not been commenting on the rescue mission as it has been taking place, so it was not clear what condition those brought out on Tuesday were in.
The eight boys brought out on Sunday and Monday were in good health overall and some asked for chocolate bread for breakfast, officials said earlier.
Two of the boys had suspected lung infections but the four boys from the first group rescued were all walking around in hospital.
Authorities have not confirmed the identity of the rescued boys and some of their parents said they had not been told who had been brought out. They were not allowed to visit the hospital where the boys were taken.
Officials defended their refusal to identify those being rescued, saying they did so out of respect for the parents of those still trapped, and so as to avoid a rush on the cave site from the families of the last ones out.
They said quarantining the boys from their parents was justified because of the risk of infection and that the boys would likely be kept in hospital for a week to undergo tests.
Cheers rang out across the cave site as a helicopter believed to be carrying the last of the boys flew overhead and away to hospital on Tuesday evening.
And those celebrations are being mirrored across the world, with messages of congratulations pouring in. Within moments of the news that the boys had been released, Icelandic prime minister Katrin Jakobsdottir tweeted that “today, hope, compassion, and courage has won”.
The British prime minister, Theresa May, said she was “delighted to see the successful rescue of those trapped in the caves in Thailand”. She added: “The world was watching and will be saluting the bravery of all those involved.”
And Donald Trump, the US president, tweeted: “On behalf of the United States, congratulations to the Thai Navy SEALs and all on the successful rescue of the 12 boys and their coach from the treacherous cave in Thailand. Such a beautiful moment – all freed, great job!”
The boys will be given extensive counselling and coached on how to interact with their classmates, members of the public and the media, such is the interest in their plight from around the world.
They had been invited by Fifa’s president, Gianni Infantino, to attend the World Cup final in Moscow on Sunday. Given the timescale of their recovery, though, it looks unlikely that they will be allowed to accept the offer.