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UPDATE: ALL THIRTEEN, who include 12 boys and their 25 year old coach have safely emerged from the Thailand cave in a multinational rescue operation having come out of the cave and onto ambulances on standby and headed straight for hospital, and no one is left in the cave in an ordeal that has run for 18 days since the boys football team went into the cave.
The thirteen are all safely out of the cave, two and half miles in water though, since the day before yesterday, when the rescue mission went into overdrive to bring them out, they are still not able to meet their families for fear of infection but they are well according to authorities and will have been reunited in hospital, where they can only see their families through glass and not in person to avoid contamination, while doctors see to their recovery.
They are expected to remain in hospital for at least a week, as they are weak and havent been exposed to real light all along. They will be kept in solation until they are fit and safe to be released from hospital. The 25 year old coach, who opted not to eat but to allow the boys to be fed and helped first by their rescuers.
The boys have demonstrated remarkable resilience, considering what they went through including 11 days in total darkness in the cave, no food, no time awareness and no knowledge of any pending rescue by the outside world, who actually thought they had died after they were caught up in the flood and had to remain on a ledge deep inside the cave. It is expected that the last two people will be out shortly later today as authorities race to evacuate everyone before the expected rise in flood waters as the monsoon rains arrive .
The team who have never scuba dived in their life, were put through their paces by a team of international divers, who trained them in how to dive, medical team who treated them and those who fed them along with the international attention. It is certainly uplifting that all have been evacuated safely out of the caves from this traumatic event in which divers focused on keeping the boys calm, not in panic, underwater, swimming in darkness, in confined, spaces so that they can soon be reunited with their families.
The rescue operation involved 18 local diving experts and 70 international diving experts, including cave divers from US, Australia and Britain, and had a doctor 24/7 in attendance in the cave throughout. The divers had the challenge of guiding the boys who had never dived, didnt know how to swim, were facing dwindling oxygen levels in the cave, to help them through narrow areas which at some points were just 40 cm wide and one diver would carry each boy’s oxygen tank, and guide them out by getting them used to the diving equipment, keeping a guide rope along the route, a diver in front and a diver as they manouvered through dark, murky water over steep ups and downs where they could easily panic and place everyone’s life at risk because of stress.
The sense of danger is clear as a few days ago, a former Thai Navy seal, who volunteered to assist, died in the cave when he fell into difficulties on his way out. The whole exercise was carefully managed by the massive rescue team and no one wanted to rush, but chose to train them, make them cormfortable , build up their health and then decided, its time to evacuate them from the cave.
The whole world is celebrating that all thirteen have come out safely from this mammoth ordeal, a team of twelf boys and their football coach, went in as a team and are now out as a team. At the moment, they are waiting for the final ambulance with the 13th person to leave the cave entrance and head for hospital, but all 13 are out and the last person is being attended to by the medical team. The final celebration can now begin as the last ambulance has just driven off from the cave, but we still expect every diver who was involved in the rescue to safely come out of the cave.
It is interesting that the diver who found the boys, had rope that ran out and he had to come up, and it was amazing that at the point where the rope ran out and he had to come up, thats exactly where the boys were on a ledge in the cave, and had he not run out of rope, he would have swam on deeper into the cave in search of the boys and totally missed them, probably never to be found by anyone. The boys are being reintroduced slowly to normal food but some are already demanding chocolates.
The whole world has been following World cup football, but the Thai boys football team , stuck in a cave, was actually the bigger football story that gripped the whole world and what great news it is that they have come out alive, albeit the Thai navy seal who lost his life in the rescue. More news to follow. By Sibusiso Ngwenya