— Rescue teams have found all 12 boys and their soccer coach alive in a cave in Thailand nine days after the group went missing, according to a high-ranking person involved in the search and rescue operation.
The boys, who range in ages from 11 to 16 years old and are all members of the Wild Boar soccer team, entered the Tham Luang Nang Non cave system on Saturday, June 23, for a team outing, but became stranded in the dark tunnels by a sudden and continuous downpour.
The international rescue operation — which includes the Thai Navy SEALs as well as experts from the US, China, Australia and the UK — had been working to reach a large, deep chamber, informally named Pattaya Beach, where they believed the missing boys had taken refuge.
“I confirm they are all safe,” Chiang Rai Governor Narongsak Osatanakorn told reporters on Monday night.
Osatanakorn said the rescuers had managed to reach Pattaya Beach and found that it was also flooded. The Thai Navy SEAL divers continued a further 300 to 400 meters where they located the team.
“Our mission (is) not done yet,” Osatanakorn said. “We will drain all water out from the cave then we will take all 13 people out of the cave. We are now planning how to send nurse and doctor inside the cave to check their health and movement. We will work all night.”
A park officer first sounded the alarm after spotting the boys’ bicycles near the entrance to the off-limits cave complex.
The cave labyrinth is popular with tourists and for the first kilometer (0.6 miles) or so inside the cavernous entrance, limestone rock formations hug high ceilings, creating an almost amphitheater-like atmosphere.
Late last week trekkers discovered a hidden opening deep in the jungle giving an alternative point of entry to the cave system.
The natural chimney, around 1.5 meters in diameter and at least 22 meters (72 feet) deep, was found to the north of the opening of the cave, where the boys’ bikes were found last Saturday.