Thailand boys are thinner, but in good condition after cave ordeal
Chiang Rai — The 12 boys and their soccer coach rescued from inside a flooded Thai cave lost an average of 2kg during their 17-day ordeal but were generally in good condition and showed no signs of stress, a senior health official said on Wednesday.
Thais reacted with relief, gratitude and exhilaration after the last group of the "Wild Boars" soccer team was rescued from the Tham Luang cave, near the border with Myanmar, on Tuesday night, ending an ordeal that gripped Thailand and the world.
They were taken by helicopter to a hospital about 70km away to join their teammates in quarantine for the time being.
"From our assessment, they are in good condition and not stressed. The children were well taken care of in the cave. Most of the boys lost an average of 2kg," Thongchai Lertwilairattanapong, an inspector for Thailand’s health department, said.
Parents of the first four boys freed on Sunday have been able to visit them but had to wear protective suits and stand 2m away as a precaution.
Thongchai said one boy from the last group rescued on Tuesday had a lung infection and they were all given vaccinations for rabies and tetanus.
Prime Minister Prayuth Chanocha asked that the boys be given time and space to recover. "The important thing is … personal space. The best way is not to bother them."
The group ventured into the vast cave complex in the northern province of Chiang Rai after soccer practice on June 23 and were trapped when a rainy season downpour flooded tunnels.
They were lost for nine days before they were discovered by British divers on July 2.
Getting them out, which involved teaching boys as young as 11 who were not strong swimmers to dive through narrow passages, proved a monumental challenge. A former member of Thailand’s navy Seal unit died during a mission in the cave on Friday.
Rescue mission chief Narongsak Osottanakorn said the boys were just being children when they got lost and no one was to blame. "We don’t see the children as at fault or as heroes. They are children being children, it was an accident."
He said falling oxygen levels inside the caves had added a sense of urgency to the rescue.
The commander of the navy Seal unit that oversaw the rescue, Rear-admiral Apakorn Yuukongkaew, hailed the international effort. "We are not heroes. This mission was successful because of co-operation from everyone," he said.
A video of the boys in hospital was shown at the news briefing. Some, wearing surgical masks, lay on their beds.
"It is amazing what the human being can do. There are extraordinary people doing extraordinary things," Australian Federal Police Asia manager Glenn McEwan said.