Students celebrate in front of Chiang Rai Prachanukroh hospital, where the 12 soccer players and their coach rescued from the Tham Luang cave complex are being treated, in the northern province of Chiang Rai, Thailand, July 11, 2018. Source: Reuters/Athit Perawongmetha
AFTER 18 gruelling days, all 13 of the people trapped in Tham Luang Cave in northern Thailand were finally brought to safety on Tuesday.
“12 Wild Boars and their coach out of the cave. Everyone safe … Hooyah”, declared a post on the Thai NavySEAL Facebook page on Tuesday evening, the culmination of a mammoth international rescue effort.
“We are not sure if this is a miracle, a science, or what. All the thirteen Wild Boars are now out of the cave.”
The plight of the junior football team, known as the Wild Boars, has captivated Thailand and people across the world for weeks.
The 12 boys and their coach became trapped on June 23 as they explored the cave and it flooded with heavy monsoonal rains.
Rescuers from countries including the UK, Australia, Denmark, Japan and Israel who helped bring the group to safety were cheered upon announcement the efforts had concluded successfully, and lauded by netizens worldwide.
Rescue team deserve Medal of Honour.🏅
Thank you for your support around the world.
🇹🇭 • 🇱🇦🇲🇲🇮🇹🇬🇧🇸🇪🇺🇲🇦🇺🇮🇱🇯🇵🇨🇳🇵🇭🇩🇪🇧🇪🇫🇷🇺🇦🇷🇺🇫🇮🇨🇿🇳🇱🌍
Finally free 🙏
— #RobinHood (@RealRobinHood19) July 10, 2018
He has kept the Wild Boars calm & alive for 17 days & he’s only 25 years old! This is love! ❤️
— TeochewGirl (@angelinetay) July 10, 2018
Iceland’s Prime Minsiter Katrín Jakobsdóttir was the first world leader to celebrate their successful rescue, tweeting that “hope, compassion, and courage has won.”
Today, hope, compassion, and courage has won. Warmest wishes for a speedy recovery to all of you brave boys from your friends in Iceland. #ThaiCaveRescue
— Katrín Jakobsdóttir (@katrinjak) July 10, 2018
US President Donald Trump followed soon afterwards, calling it a “beautiful moment”, while UK Prime Minister Theresa May said “the world was watching and will be saluting the bravery of all those involved.”
On behalf of the United States, congratulations to the Thai Navy SEALs and all on the successful rescue of the 12 boys and their coach from the treacherous cave in Thailand. Such a beautiful moment – all freed, great job!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 10, 2018
Delighted to see the successful rescue of those trapped in the caves in Thailand. The world was watching and will be saluting the bravery of all those involved.
— Theresa May (@theresa_may) July 10, 2018
Champion French footballer Paul Pogba dedicated his country’s 1-0 World Cup semi-final win against Belgium to the Wild Boars, who he called the “heroes of the day”.
— Paul Pogba (@paulpogba) July 10, 2018
I officially want to buy a Wild Boars jersey #ThaiCaveResue
— Dean Mayes (@Hambledown_Road) July 10, 2018
The volunteers who helped out throughout the ordeal were also in for high praise – providing food, massages and other assistance to the rescuers.
There were the volunteers who helped cleaning muddy bathrooms, the ones who helped giving free massages to the rescuers, the ones who decided to stay after the rescue is over to pump water out of the flooded farm fields. These people haven’t been mentioned enough#ThaiCaveRescuepic.twitter.com/pGsKtJv4Ef
— Pat //พักหนีม่า 😷 (@OverallPope) July 10, 2018
There were some tragic elements to the rescue, however.
Thai Navy SEAL Saman Gunan died last Friday after he ran out of oxygen and lost consciousness. He had been part of the team setting up air tanks along the escape route, which allowed the boys to subsequently get out alive.
Respect & Remember the name!
Ex Thai Navy SEAL Diver Saman Kunan who sacrificed his life during the #ThaiCaveRescue , not living to see the final victory ✌ #ThailandCaveRescue All 12 boys & coach rescued successfully! pic.twitter.com/SgoQs1OpN7
— Hashim Mohamed (@itshaappe) July 10, 2018
“Every day before he left for work, we said we loved each other,” Gunan’s wife Waleeporn told BBC News in an interview. “Saman once said, he never knew when we would die. We can’t control that so we need to cherish every day.”
“He loved helping others, doing charity work, and getting things done.”
Meanwhile, the father of Australian anaesthetist Dr Richard Harris passed away shortly after the rescue mission was declared a success.
“It is with great sadness that I confirm that Harry’s dad passed away last night a short time after the successful rescue operation in Thailand,” said a statement from Harris’ employer MedSTAR.
“This is clearly a time of grief for the Harris family, magnified by the physical and emotional demands of being part of this week’s highly complex and ultimately successful rescue operation.”