Twelve members of a boys’ football team and their coach have been found alive after nine days trapped in a cave in Thailand.
The children, who are aged between 11 and 16, had become trapped in the Tham Luang caves in Chiang Rai after heavy rain triggered a flash flood that prevented them escaping through a narrow tunnel.
The alarm was raised over a week ago, when their bikes were found near the entrance of the cavern, sparking a huge rescue effort that has gripped the nation.
Efforts to locate the team in the network were complicated by rising water levels, which continued as the rain did not abate. Furthermore, mud continues to impede access to divers, who had been tasked with locating and extracting the team.
Thai Navy SEAL special forces have posted a video to Facebook that shows the moment the boys were found. It is believed that two English divers found the children, which appeared to be confirmed by the video, in which a diver asks: “How many of you?”
A reply comes: “Thirteen.”
The video then details questions asked by the boys, including when they will be rescued.
“Not today. There's two of us. We have to dive. We are coming. OK? Many people are coming. We are the first,” the rescuers reply.
Having been underground for so long, it appears that the group were confused as to what day it was. After a muffled conversation, the divers tell them: “Monday, Monday. You have been here... 10 days. You are very strong.”
Although they have had no shortage of water, one of the boys is heard to say: “Eat, eat, eat, tell them we are hungry.”
"They are all safe but the mission is not completed," Narongsak Osottanakorn, Chiang Rai governor, explained to the media.
“Our mission is to search, rescue and return. So far we just found them. Next mission is to bring them out from the cave and send them home.”
While the aim is to take the boys out of the cave, that depends on the ability of the rescuers to pump water out of the cave and also the health of the children and coach.
“If the doctors say their physical condition is strong enough to be moved, they will take them out from the cave,” he continued.
“We will look after them until they can return to school.”
Over 1000 people have been involved in the effort to save the children, with teams from countries all over Asia, plus the U.S., Australia and the UK.