Miracles do happen. And this Wild Boars football team from Thailand proved the same to the world. Having gone out to celebrate a team member’s birthday this football team found themselves stranded inside a cave after a flash flood; and the rest as they say was history…
The 12 boys along with their coach were finally rescued after more than 2 weeks of being trapped inside the cave. It was an intensive near 3 week operation by agencies from all over the world. The rescue operation itself was a miracle for it could have turned into a disaster at any point of time.
“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 Navy SEAL unit, which led the rescue, said on its Facebook page, adding all were safe.
Here goes the full story of a rescue operation that had around thousands of volunteers come together from different parts of the world in support…
The boys posted to Facebook shortly before they went in the cave
HOW IT ALL BEGAN
It was a birthday gone wrong.
On Saturday 23 June, the Wild Boars Football team went out along with their assistant coach for a bicycle ride to celebrate a team mate’s birthday who had turned seventeen, through the rice paddies and up into the forested hill that lately had been blanketed in rain. Their destination was the Tham Luang cave, a favourite haunt for the boys, who loved exploring the nooks and crannies of the mountain range towering over Mae Sai.
The team after stashing their bicycles and their bags by the entrances of the cave, ventured inside the cave with only their flashlight like they have done many times before. The team had often ventured deep into Tham Luang, sometimes as far as 8km, for initiation rites, something that has been practiced by this team for quite some time.
Snaking for 10km beneath the cloud-swathed mountain range that separates Thailand and Myanmar is Tham Luang, the fourth biggest Thai cave system. Named after a mountain shaped like a reclining woman, its full name is Tham Luang Khun Nam Nang Non - "The great cave and water source of the sleeping lady mountain".
It has its dangers - people have gone missing in Tham Luang before. And once monsoon season starts in July, the cave goes from innocuous to extremely dangerous. The cave can flood up to 5m (16ft) during the rainy season, and should only be entered between November and April.
The parents of the trapped children began to worry once they realised that the kids had not returned back from the trip. The parents then headed to the cave where they found the bicycles and backpacks after which they raised alarm for help.
Meanwhile the football team had headed deep into the cave as they were caught unaware by the flash floods. Later they found themselves on a small rocky shelf about 4km from the cave entrance, past a normally dry point known as Pattaya Beach which by now was flooded.
The next day Park officials and police found handprints and footprints believed to belong to the boys.
The search began at about midnight after police received a report of a missing child from a mother who says her son has not returned from football practice. Relatives start to keep vigil outside the cave. Thai Navy SEAL divers were called and they entered the cave in search of the boys.
On June 26, Divers are forced out of the cave by rushing floodwaters as they try to reach an air pocket called “Pattaya Beach”, where the boys are believed to have retreated. Later the specialists began to pump out the water from the cave in order to allow navy divers to operate inside the cave.
SUPPORT FROM OTHER COUNTRIES
Kirloskar Brothers is a Pune-based company that provided pumps to drain out water from the flooded cave.
Thailand's interior minister Anupong Paojinda had also said that divers can proceed only when enough water has been pumped out, to give breathing space between the water and the ceiling.
A team of more than 30 American military personnel from the US Pacific Command arrive and are joined by three British diving experts who start to probe the cave. Some of the rescue divers are forced to turn back after floodwater seeps into a second chamber of the caves, with heavy rain continuing to hamper the search.
RESCUE OPERATION CONTINUES:
For the next three days, the rescue operators continued pumping out the water though rains continue over the area. Downpours create fast-moving floods inside the cave forcing a suspension of the rescue. Though the divers tried to enter the cave they were forced out by the rushing water.
A break in the rain allows divers to reach further inside the cave but they are still a long distance from where the boys are believed to be. Divers also inch further in, as an operating base is set up inside “Chamber Three” and hundreds of air tanks and other supplies are pulleyed in.
Packages were also dropped through a shaft in the mountainside in the hope of reaching the boys and their coach. Twenty packages filled with water, food, medicine, torches and a note addressed to the missing team was dropped down a fissure in the cave.
After 10 days, rescuers confirmed that they had found the boys and their coach alive, but "very weak". The 12 boys and their coach were found alive late Monday evening about 400 metres beyond Pattaya Beach by the British cave diving team.
Much-needed food and medical supplies including high-calorie gels and paracetamol were sent to the boys as rescuers prepared for the possibility that they may remain in the cave for some time.
Coach Ake, a former monk, taught the boys meditation techniques - to help them stay calm and use as little air as possible - and told them to lie still to conserve their strength.
As the boys didn’t know swimming, they were taught how to use diving masks and breathing apparatuses
On July 8 Divers lead the first four boys out of the cave as night falls. The next day four more boys were rescued before dusk. The last four boys and the coach are safely brought out of the Tham Luang cave in one of the fastest days of the 72-hour operation. Later in the evening, the last four divers who had helped with the rescue also emerge safely from the cave.
"All 12 Wild Boars and coach have been extracted from the cave. Hooyah!" the Royal Thai Navy SEALS write in a Facebook post.
Officials say the eight boys rescued on Sunday and Monday are in good health and have had X-rays. They have also been given saline, rabies vaccines and vitamin B.
Manchester United has invited the young footballers to Old Trafford for the upcoming season.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with those affected. We would love to welcome the team from Wild Boars Football Club and their rescuers to Old Trafford this coming season," they wrote.
Interestingly, Paul Pogba also dedicated France 1-0 WC Semi’s victory to the boys.