SEE: Thailand cave rescue: What we know so far

2018-07-03 12:15

Food and medical help has reached the 12 boys and their football coach who were found weakened but safe deep inside a cave in northern Thailand nine days after they went missing.

The Thai military on Tuesday said they would provide the team with four months' worth of food and give them diving lessons while continuing to drain the Tham Luang cave complex, in Thailand's Chiang Rai province, which has been flooded by heavy monsoon rains. 

The news that the boys, aged 11 to 16, and their 25-year-old coach had been found sparked jubilation across Thailand.

A British team of divers were the first to reach them on Monday evening at about 22:00 (15:00 GMT). 

"How many are you? Thirteen? Brilliant," a diver is heard saying in video footage that shows the moment the boys, pale and thin, were found perched on a ledge inside the cave complex. 

"We are hungry... Shall we go outside?" one of the boys replies to the rescuers in the video. 

There had been no contact with the team since they got trapped inside on June 23, after flooding caused by heavy rains blocked the entrance. 

READ: 12 children trapped in Thailand cave after storms

"I can't express how I feel. It's stunning and I'm very proud – I never expected this day to come," Adisak Wongsukchan, the father of one of the boys, said after the boys were found.  

Reporting from Chiang Rai, Al Jazeera's Scott Heidler said "The families are very happy but they're very concerned now just how quickly these boys can come out. 

"We're not getting any indication really of how long that's going to take."

Divers had been trying to reach a section of the cave called "Pattaya Beach" for days, making painstaking advances in the dark, flooded cave and at times being forced to retreat by rising waters. 

But when rescuers arrived at the potential safety spot, they found it to be flooded too. The football team was eventually found 400m further inside the cave.  

High-calorie gels and paracetamol are among the supplies that have since reached them and all 13 have undergone an "informal" medical evaluation.

Most of the team were found to be in stable condition while some of the boys had sustained injuries or light injuries, Chiang Rai Governor Narongsak Osatanakorn said on Tuesday. 

READ: Thailand cave rescue: What now for the boys?

A Thai navy SEAL team will now decide how the boys and their coach will be brought to safety. Narongsak said one of the methods under consideration is to coach the group to swim with special breathing masks. 

They would keep draining the cave while exploring the mountainside for other entrances as well. Rain was forecasted to intensify from Wednesday, potentially complicating the rescue effort which could take weeks or even months to complete. 

A Thai rescuer walks near where water is pumped fr

A Thai rescuer walks near where water is pumped from a flooded cave after all 12 boys and their soccer coach were found alive. (Sakchai Lalit, AP)

A view of the boys and their soccer coach as they

A view of the boys and their soccer coach as they are rescued in a cave, in Chiang Rai in Thailand. (Thai Navy Seal via AP)

Water is pumped from a flooded cave after all 12 b

Water is pumped from a flooded cave after all 12 boys and their soccer coach were found alive. (Sakchai Lalit, AP)

A US cave rescue expert told AP news agency many challenges remained in the operation. 

"Supplying them on site may face challenges depending on how difficult the dives are. Trying to take non-divers through a cave is one of the most dangerous situations possible, even if the dives are relatively easy," Anmar Mirza, the US National Cave Rescue Commission coordinator told AP. 

"If the dives are difficult then supply will be difficult, but the risk of trying to dive them out is also exponentially greater," he added. 

Read more on:    thailand  |  thailand cave rescue

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