TWELVE MINOR BOYS and their 25-year-old football coach, who went exploring on June 23 in Thailand’s Chiang Rai province and ended up getting trapped deep inside a flooded cave underneath a mountain, were rescued in a monumental operation conducted by the Thai Navy SEALs along with divers from across the world. The boys, members of a local youth football team called the Wild Boars, and their assistant coach, Ekkapol “Ake” Chantawong, went exploring inside the Tham Luang cave, a favourite haunt for them in the mountain range towering over their village Mae Sai. They would often venture deep inside the cave, sometimes as far as eight kilometres, and would return after spending a couple of hours there. However, this time they were trapped inside for two weeks as the cave got inundated with rain waters when they were inside. They were caught off-guard by a flash flood and needed to get out, but instead had no choice but to scramble even deeper into the cave. While it was known that the group had ventured inside the cave, it took several days to find out where exactly they were and that they were all alive. The international rescuers were the US air force rescue specialists, and cave divers from the UK, Belgium, Australia, Scandinavia, and many other countries. Some had volunteered, and some were called in by Thai authorities. The divers faced a tough time as they had to fight constant battles such as swimming against strong currents and being forced back by rising floodwaters. On July 2, over a week after the boys had gone missing, they were finally discovered by two British divers. The boys and their coach were quickly joined by a military medic and Navy SEAL divers who stayed with them for the rest of the ordeal.
They were put on a special diet of medicated liquid food and mineral water infused with vitamins. Rescuers set to work in figuring out how to extract 13 people — some of whom couldn’t swim — from a winding, flooded 4km-long stretch of caves that even experienced divers would struggle with. Finally, on July 10, over two weeks after they were trapped, rescuers took them out in batches of three over three days in what is being called a “superhuman” mission. While all the boys and the coach were miraculously rescued, former Navy Seal diver Saman Gunan, 38, who was one of many volunteers to have rushed to help in the rescue, died.