Bangkok: Twelve boys and their football coach trapped in a Thai cave are alive, but will need to learn to dive or wait months for flooding to recede before they can get out, the army says. The group had been missing for nine days before they were found by divers late on Monday on a small dry ledge. Rescuers are now battling rising water to bring more supplies to the group. They may need to have food sent in for at least the next four months.
Attempts were being made to install power and telephone lines inside the cave to let the boys speak with their parents.
Two British rescuer divers who had flown over to join the search operation found the boys on Monday night.
The video of that first contact was posted on Facebook by Thai Navy SEAL special forces.
The boys were seen by torchlight sitting on a ledge above water, responding to the divers that all 13 were there and that they were very hungry.
They ask how long they have been underground and whether they can leave now. The divers tell them they have to wait, but say people will come back for them. One boy replies: “Oh. See you tomorrow.”
The search for the group had gripped the nation as it was unclear where they were or whether they even were still alive.
Families of the missing group were ecstatic at news of the rescue.
The boys, aged between 11 and 16, and their 25-year-old coach went missing on June 23. It’s believed they entered the cave when it was dry and sudden heavy rains blocked the exit.
They were found on a rock shelf around 4km (2.5 miles) from the mouth of the cave.
It is thought the boys could move through parts of the cave in dry conditions but rushing waters clogged the narrow passages with mud and debris, blocking visibility and access.
One of the toughest stretches for the divers came as they neared so-called Pattaya Beach – an elevated mound in the cave complex – where it was hoped the boys had sought refuge.
Divers had to navigate a series of sharp, narrow bends in near-darkness. They completed the difficult journey to find Pattaya Beach flooded, so swam on and found the boys about 400m away.