Relatives of boys trapped in a flooded cave wait at a checkpoint near the Tham Luang cave complex in Thailand’s the northern province of Chiang Rai, on July 10 2018. Picture: REUTERS
Relatives of boys trapped in a flooded cave wait at a checkpoint near the Tham Luang cave complex in Thailand’s the northern province of Chiang Rai, on July 10 2018. Picture: REUTERS

Mae Sai/Bangkok/Chiang Rai — All 12 boys and their football coach have been rescued from a Thai cave after an 18-day ordeal, the Thai Navy Seals said in a Facebook post.

“All are safe” it said, signing off with a “Hooyah”, a Seals signature throughout the painstaking mission to get the boys out of the cave.

Four Seal team divers — including a doctor — who stayed with the group were still to emerge, the Facebook post added.

In a day of high drama, the remaining five boys emerged in groups as evening approached, guided out by international divers and the Seals, who have played an integral role throughout an unprecedented rescue mission.

The perilous mission to save the Wild Boars soccer team and their coach has gripped the world for days.

Eight of the boys were brought out on stretchers over the first two days — four on Sunday and four on Monday.

Officials were not immediately available to comment on who had been brought out.

The head of the operation, Narongsak Osottanakorn, said earlier the final operation would be “more challenging” because one more survivor would be brought out, along with three Navy Seals who have been accompanying them.

The rescuers have been learning from experience and were two hours faster in bringing the second batch of survivors out on Monday.

Tuesday’s rescue mission will be a race against time and bad weather.

The eight boys rescued on Monday are in good health overall and some have asked for chocolate bread for breakfast, officials said on Tuesday.

“At this moment [there are] no worrisome conditions, everyone is safe,” Thailand’s Health Secretary, Jesada Chokedamrongsuk, told reporters.

Two of the boys had suspected lung infections but the four boys from the first group rescued were all walking around their beds.

“The kids are footballers, are strong and have high immunity,” Jesada said when asked why they survived so long.

The boys had good appetites but were mainly being given bland, easily digestible foods. However, doctors later relented after some of the boys asked for bread with chocolate topping.

They are still being quarantined from their parents because of the risk of infection and will probably be kept in hospital for a week to undergo tests, officials said.

World soccer’s governing body, Fifa, has invited the boys to the Soccer World Cup final in Moscow on Sunday. But this seems unlikely now, given the need for the boys to undergo further tests.

Osottanakorn said rescuers had learned from experience and were two hours faster in bringing the second batch of survivors out.

But scattered monsoon rains continued to risk percolating through the limestone cave walls to flood the tunnels with water.

Divers, engineers, medics and others have flown in from around the world to assist.

Technology billionaire Elon Musk went into the cave on Monday and left the rescue team with a “kid-sized” submarine his company SpaceX had built, Thailand’s interior Minister Anupong Paochinda said.

Musk said on Twitter: “Just returned from Cave 3. Mini-sub is ready if needed. It is made of rocket parts & named Wild Boar after kids’ soccer team. Leaving here in case it may be useful in the future.”

Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha visited the cave to inspect the operation and was quoted by Narongsak as saying he didn’t want to see this kind of incident happen again on Thai soil.

AFP, Reuters

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