The water pumps failed, and Commander Chaiyananta Peeranarong heard shouts of alarm as the final stage of an unprecedented operation to rescue 12 Thai boys and their coach from a flooded cave nearly tipped into disaster.
Two British divers found the boys and their coach on a ledge several kilometres inside the cave on Monday last week, nine days after they went missing.
Thongchai Lertwilairatanapong, a public health inspector, said the boys lost an average of 2 kilograms (4.4 pounds) while they were trapped. The third and final group, including the soccer team’s 25-year-old coach, who were all evacuated Tuesday, are taking antibiotics and at least some had lung infections.
“I wish to express my heartfelt gratitude to Your Excellency and the people of the Republic of India for the kind offer to contribute tot he efforts to rescue the boys and the coach”, an official release from the Thai government stated.
Five of them are being taken care of by a medical team at Chiang Rai Prachanukroh Hospital some 60km away from the Tham Luang Forest Park.
The search started immediately but rising waters made the effort hard.
He recalled diving for perhaps half an hour in “zero visibility”, with his helmet bashing against rocks, and then a 10-minute walk in water up to his waist before diving again.
“We’re very glad we could get you out alive”.
The rescued group are all now recovering in hospital.
Ewan McGregor, a British missionary in the city of Chiang Rai where the boys are now in hospital, said: “It really is a miracle and a result of prayer and I’m just excited to hear the testimonies of the boys when they’re safe and well”.
At around 10 p.m., Volanthen emerged from the waters around the mound and shone a torch into the startled eyes of the boys. They wave to the camera, give the peace sign and press their hands together in prayer to show gratitude. The navy has a motto: ‘We don’t abandon the people’. But approaching wet weather forced the timeline to be moved up and the elite unit of Thai Navy Seals and foreign divers were forced to contend with thick mud and rising water.
Brown was impressed by the rigour of the planning by the Thai military.
“To see all that heroic bravery in the cave, and to get all the divers out, it’s just such a touching event and so personal to me”, he said in a video on Twitter. filmed at the rescue site.
The rescue was fraught with danger, a point underscored last Friday (June 6) by the death of a retired Thai Navy SEAL diver as he ran out of air in the flooded cave complex.
But he had denied they were knocked out for an operation the chief of the rescue had dubbed “mission impossible”. One of the boys lies on it covered in a metallic, reflective material.
Experts say the divers brought a variety of skills, including the ability to install guide lines that help in low visibility, and previous experience in global operations.
Nopparat Kanthawong, the head coach of the Wild Boars team, told CNN that he did not know why the boys had gone into the cave.
Some crevices were barely wide enough for a person, and the swirling currents risked ripping off the boys’ oxygen masks.
It shows divers preparing to plunge into murky brown waters likened to “cold coffee”.
“They can only stay in their beds”, a doctor told media.
The Tham Luang rescue mission involved more than 10,000 officers from the Thai Army, Navy and Air Force, police personnel, medics, diving experts, engineers, geologists, volunteers and many more – both from Thailand and overseas. As the cave begins to open up toward the entrance, dozens are seen crouching down and wading through gushing water to help carry the stretcher.
Chiang Rai province acting Gov. Narongsak Osatanakorn, who oversaw the rescue operation, said the boys should not be blamed for their near tragedy. On Tuesday authorities said some of the boys had asked to eat bread with chocolate spread, but mostly they’ll be given a food similar to milk which is rich in proteins and nutrients.
There is still some uncertainty about the degree to which the boys were sedated before being escorted out.
Venus Sirsuk, the director of the Bureau of Registration at the Thai interior ministry, told the Guardian his office was looking into granting citizenship for the boys and their coach. “The coach was the one to choose”, he said.
The rescue has dominated front-page headlines in Thailand and beyond for days.
“I was exhausted”, he said.