By Wilawan Watcharasakwet
Rescuers plucked out the final four boys and their coach from a flooded Thai cave Tuesday, officials said, ending a massive rescue effort that gripped the world through social media.
The boys were among the 12 soccer team players, ages 11-16, who were reported missing with their 25-year-old coach after they ventured through the massive Tham Luang cave in the country’s mountainous Chiang Rai province on June 23. British divers found them huddling in a dark, flooded chamber nine days later.
Four boys were extracted on Sunday and four more on Monday.
“All 12 Wild Boars and coach exited the cave,” the Thai Navy SEAL Facebook said, referring to the nickname of the Moo Pa Academy’s soccer team. “All are safe.”
Narongsak Osotthanakorn, head of the search operations, told reporters Tuesday morning that 19 divers, backed by more than 100 men, were involved in the final phase of the rescue.
The Wild Boars were trapped when heavy rainfall flooded the underground tunnels as they explored the vast and winding cave complex, forcing them to huddle on a muddy bank almost 5 km (3.1 miles) from the cave’s entrance.
The complicated attempt to free them set off a tough challenge for rescuers that include 90 divers who had to navigate pitch-black terrain and negotiate strong currents. More than half of the divers were from the United States, U.K. and other nations, officials said.