Posted: Tuesday, July 10, 2018 – 10:12 AM
The final five members of a young football team were rescued from a flooded Thai cave on Tuesday after spending 18 harrowing days trapped deep inside, completing an astonishing against-the-odds rescue mission that captivated the world.
Elite foreign divers and Thai Navy SEALs extracted the final batch of four boys, plus the 25-year-old coach, on Tuesday afternoon via a treacherous escape route that required them to squeeze through narrow, water-filled tunnels in darkness.
“All 12 ‘Wild Boars’ and coach have been extracted from the cave,” the SEALs said in a Facebook post, referring to the boys by the name of their football team.
“All are safe,” they added, then signed off with what has become their trademark “Hooyah” that they used to celebrate the successful extractions of the other eight boys over the previous two days.
The last four Thai navy divers, including a doctor, who had been with the boys emerged safe from the cave late Tuesday, rescue chief Narongsak Osottanakorn said.
The children, aged from 11 to 16, and their coach, ventured into the Tham Luang cave in mountainous northern Thailand on June 23 after football practice and got trapped when heavy rains caused flooding that forced them to take shelter on a muddy ledge.
Here are some of the reactions to the rescue from world leaders and athletes:
- President Trump -
US President Donald Trump was among the first to congratulate the Thai Navy SEALs who spearheaded the mammoth international rescue effort at the Tham Luang cave complex in northern Thailand.
“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,” Trump tweeted. “Such a beautiful moment – all freed, great job!”
- Britain’s May -
“Delighted to see the successful rescue of those trapped in the caves in Thailand. The world was watching and will be saluting the bravery of all those involved,” British Prime Minister Theresa May said on Twitter.
- Tech guru Elon Musk -
“Great news that they made it out safely. Congratulations to an outstanding rescue team!,” said tech guru Elon Musk, who visited the cave and offered the use of a prototype mini-sub made from rocket parts.
In the end, the sub was not needed and Musk earlier said he was leaving it “here in case it may be useful in the future”.
- Chilean miners -
“Youjuuuu!,” exclaimed Chilean miner Mario Sepulveda, who was among 33 miners trapped down a mine for 69 days in 2010.
“I feel a lot a lot of emotion. What can I say? I hope these kids will be very successful,” he told AFP.
- FIFA -
Football’s governing body FIFA also welcomed the rescue but said the boys were too weak to attend Sunday’s World Cup final in Moscow.
FIFA boss Gianni Infantino had invited the boys’ Wild Boars football team to the final “as our guests” last week.
But FIFA said it had been informed “that due to medical reasons, the boys will not be in a position to travel to Moscow”.
“FIFA’s priority remains the health of everyone involved in the operation and we will look into finding a new opportunity to invite the boys to a FIFA event to share with them a moment of communion and celebration,” a spokesman said.
- Manchester United -
Manchester United also invited the “Wild Boars”, as well as those involved in the rescue, to travel to England and visit the club.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with those affected. We would love to welcome the team from Wild Boars Football Club and their rescuers to Old Trafford this coming season,” the club said in tweet.
“Amazing news that all of the Thai kids are out of the cave safely! I’d like to send out shirts to them,” England defender and Manchester City player Kyle Walker also tweeted.
- Belgian foreign minister -
Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders said he was “Relieved with the happy outcome” of the cave rescue.
“Congratulations to the brave rescuers, including several Belgian divers,” he tweeted.
“Thoughts also go out to the Thai Navy Seal who gave his life in this rescue operation,” he added.
Former Thai navy diver Saman Kunan died on Friday when he ran out of oxygen while returning from the chamber where the boys were trapped.
© Agence France-Presse