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Sunday , December 5 2021

Relief, joy after ‘extraordinary’ rescue

12 boys, coach in good condition

This handout video grab taken from footage released by The Thai government public relations department (PRD) and Government spokesman bureau on July 11, shows members of the ‘Wild Boars’ football team being treated at a hospital in Chiang Rai. (AFP)

CHIANG RAI, Thailand, July 11, (Agencies): The 12 boys and their soccer coach rescued from inside a fl ooded Thai cave lost an average of 2 kg (4 lb) during their 17-day ordeal but were generally in good condition and showed no signs of stress, a senior health official said on Wednesday. Thais reacted with relief, gratitude and exhilaration after the last group of the “Wild Boars” soccer team was rescued from the Tham Luang cave, near the border with Myanmar, on Tuesday night, ending an ordeal that gripped Thailand and the world.

They were taken by helicopter to a hospital about 70 km (45 miles) away to join their team mates in quarantine for the time being. “From our assessment, they are in good condition and not stressed. The children were well taken care of in the cave. Most of the boys lost an average of 2 kg,” Thongchai Lertwilairattanapong, an inspector for Thailand’s health department, told reporters. Parents of the first four boys freed on Sunday have been able to visit them but had to wear protective suits and stand 2 metres (7 feet) away as a precaution. Thongchai said one from the last group rescued on Tuesday had a lung infection and they were all given vaccinations for rabies and tetanus. Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha on Wednesday asked that the boys be given time and space to recover. “The important thing is … personal space. We have to monitor this for the kids because their immune system is still weak,” Prayuth told reporters.

“The best way is not to bother them and let them study.” The group ventured into the vast cave complex in the northern province of Chiang Rai after soccer practice on June 23 and were trapped when a rainy season downpour flooded tunnels. They were lost for nine days before they were discovered by British divers on July 2. Getting them out — which involved teaching boys as young as 11 who were not strong swimmers to dive through narrow, submerged passages — proved a monumental challenge. A former member of Thailand’s navy SEAL unit died during a mission in the cave on Friday. Their dramatic rescue dominated front-page headlines in Thailand and beyond.

“Hooyah! Mission accomplished,” read one headline, echoing the rallying cry of the SEAL unit involved in the rescue. The hashtag #Hooyah was hugely popular on social media with people showing their support for the hundreds of rescuers, including divers from around the world, who helped to get the boys out. Prayuth thanked everyone who “shared their expertise, manpower and equipment”. Official help came from Britain, the United States, Japan, Laos, Myanmar, China and Australia, a government document showed. There were volunteers from Denmark, Germany, Belgium, Canada, Ukraine and Finland. A senior Australian police officer acknowledged the degree of international cooperation “in a very unfriendly environment”.

“It is amazing what the human being can do. There are extraordinary people doing extraordinary things,” Glenn McEwan, the Australian Federal Police’s Asia manager, told reporters in Chiang Rai. “We are humbled to have been a part of it. Returning the Wild Boar soccer team safely into the arms of their loved ones is the good news of the year,” he said. People around the world cheered the team’s rescue after the saga generated messages of help, prayers and — finally — relief. The fate of the boys has even resonated as far as Russia, where soccer’s World Cup is reaching its final stages.

Players from France and England welcomed news of the rescue and sent their best wishes to the “Wild Boars” on Twitter. “This victory goes to the heroes of the day, well done boys, you are so strong,” French midfielder Paul Pogba tweeted after his team beat Belgium 1-0 on Tuesday to reach the final. Manchester City and England defender Kyle Walker, whose team faces Croatia in the second semi-final later on Wednesday, said he wanted to send shirts to the boys.

On Wednesday a few hundred Thai school children gathered opposite the hospital, chanting thanks to those who helped and looking up at the building that will be home to the rescued football team for the coming days. Elsewhere Duangduen Sittiwongsa, a classmate of 16-year-old Pheeraphat “Night” Sompiengjai, whose birthday fell on the same day the team entered the cave, said they would give him cake and gifts when he came back to school. “We will sing a song for him,” she said.

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