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Divers have rescued all of the 13 people that had been trapped in a flooded cave network in Northern Thailand. The last of the 12 boys and their coach escaped after 17 days underground, and are all “skinny but well.”

The boys’ situation caught the world’s attention, along with the challenging rescue mission that got everyone safely out of the caves.

The boys from the “Wild Boars” football team, aged 11 to 16, had entered the caves with their 25-year-old coach on June 23rd, 2018. They became trapped underground in the Tham Luang caves after heavy rain had blocked the exit. For nine days they had been missing but were found alive last week by two British divers, sitting on a muddy slope inside the cave.

After the football team was found, the local community started to hope. Authorities discussed rescue options but all of them were risky. Drilling holes to reach them was one solution. Another solution was to get oxygen and supplies into the cave, which could allow the boys to spend a few months there waiting for the flood waters to go down.

Heavy rain was predicted for the weekend and with fears that the water would rise again, the decision was made to get the team out of the caves as quickly as possible.

Rescuers were able to begin the operation at 10 a.m. on Sunday after they had pumped a lot of water out of the cave. The journey was extremely demanding, to get to and from where the boys were trapped took 11 hours, which had been exhausting even for experienced divers. The rescue team of 90 divers – 40 from Thailand and 50 from other countries – guided the boys in darkness through small passages underwater towards the entrance of the caves.

Diving, climbing, and sometimes walking through water, the rescuers used ropes to help them get out of the cave. In one section of the cave, the rescuers had to take off their own air tanks to get through a very small space called the “T-junction”.

The boys themselves wore full face masks, which are much easier for new divers to use. Two divers helped each boy get out of the cave and carried their air supply.

A former Thai navy diver, Saman Gunan, died in the caves on a mission to provide the group with air tanks. This showed how dangerous the rescue was. He ran out of oxygen on the way back and passed out. His diving partner was not able to save him.

The group showed great strength while in the cave. They had written letters to their families which divers carried out of the caves, telling them not to worry. They were also looking forward to tasty food, hoping that they would get out soon. After their supplies ran out they survived in the caves by licking drops of water from the walls.

The coach had shown the boys how to meditate and told them not to move too much in the cave so they didn’t waste their energy.

To show respect for the families of the boys who were still trapped in the caves, the names of the boys who were rescued first were not given to the media. They were also not allowed to see their families immediately, because of the risk of infection.