Thai Navy SEALs announced Tuesday that all 12 members of a youth soccer team, and their coach were successfully rescued by divers after becoming trapped in a cave for more than two weeks. A medic and three SEALs have yet to emerge from the caves, but all signs point to the operation being a success.
Mild weather and a break in the rain created a small window for rescue attempts, which paired each stranded child with multiple divers to navigate the flooded narrow corridors on the path back to dry land. The boys are said to be in “good spirits,” according to Thai officials and are currently being held in hospital for evaluation while they are tested for infections.
The team, whose players range from 11 to 16 years in age, became trapped in the Tham Luang caves on June 23 after torrential rains effectively sealed them in. They were discovered deep inside the cave system on July 3, but could not immediately be brought to safety due to the amount of water remaining underground.
Rescue teams, led by Thailand’s Navy SEALs were aided by experts from the United States, United Kingdom, China, and Australia. They had been sending food and other supplies into the cave while coordinating the complex rescue. A former Thai navy diver died while participating in the rescue operation.
The group went missing after venturing into the cave as part of a team outing. They ventured deep into the system, beyond signs that warned of the danger that comes with potential floods as the rainy season approaches. The youth club was nearly two miles into the limestone caves when a storm outside cut off their path home and forced them to venture deeper into the system to find higher ground.
Searchers had initially pinpointed an elevated patch of rock informally known as “Pattaya Beach” as a likely refuge, only for SEAL divers to find it flooded as well. But the divers kept working, and some 500 yards from Pattaya Beach they found the team and its coach in the darkness, all 13 of them alive. On July 8 an international team of rescuers began the rescue effort.