For the first time in more than two weeks, the world is breathing easier now that all 12 Thai boys and their 25-year-old soccer coach have been successfully rescued from the depths of a flooded cave. Just after 10 pm on Tuesday, officials announced the last of the group were rescued and in good health.
“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 Thai Navy SEALs posted on their Facebook Page.
The group became trapped in a cave 0.8 kilometers (half a mile) below ground when a monsoon rainstorm forced them to seek shelter a further 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) away from the mouth of the cave on June 23. Followers around the world were gripped for weeks while rescuers were unsure if they would be able to get the boys out.
So how did they do it?
Before the big push, rescue crews pumped 40 percent of the water out of the cave, flooding a nearby farmer’s field. But because it’s monsoon season, water continued to steadily flow in. The rescuers also took several hours to place air tanks along the route to the cave's exit.
An international team of divers, including the Thai Navy SEALS, had to make sure the boys knew how to swim – it took divers five hours just to reach the point where the boys had hunkered down. Each boy was equipped with a full-face mask designed for novice divers and then paired with two divers who carried oxygen tanks. These chaperones would guide their charge through the nearly pitch-black cave using ropes.
For the first half of the journey back, the boys were forced to wade or dive through flooded passes for as much as 10 to 15 minutes underwater at a time. The last half of a mile was a rope-assisted climb over slippery rocks and a narrow “pinch” point measuring just 38 centimeters (15 inches) wide that the boys had to scramble over in the absolute darkness.
Rescuers worked in three stages, rescuing the first group of four boys in a total of nine hours on Sunday. After pausing the mission overnight to replace air tanks, four more boys were rescued on Monday, with the final four and their coach on Tuesday.
The boys were transported to a local hospital where they are now being kept in quarantine, reports ABC News. This is to ensure they did not contract any transmissible diseases and to reduce the risk of spreading infections.