The Thai boys cave rescue: what we know

An ambulance carrying one of the boys rescued from Tham Luang Nang Non cave heading toward the hospital on July 8, 2018, in Chiang Rai, Thailand.

All 12 boys and their coach had been rescued as of Tuesday morning.

The mission to rescue 12 Thai boys and their soccer coach who had been trapped in a cave in northern Thailand for over two weeks is just about complete. As of Tuesday morning, all 12 boys and their coach had been brought out of the cave by the team of expert divers deployed to help guide the boys along the 2.5-mile journey to safety.

Only the doctor who has been caring for them since they were first discovered last Monday and three Thai Navy Seals involved in the rescue operation remain inside the cave. The boys are in good overall health, according to the Ministry of Public Health.

On Saturday, June 23, a group of 12 boys between the ages of 11 and 16 went with their soccer coach to explore a cave in the Tham Luang Nang Non cave system. As they entered, rain picked up, and the rising water trapped them inside. The group of 13 was missing for nine days before they were discovered by two British divers.

People in Thailand and around the world rejoiced when the group was found, but there was another problem: getting them out. Some sections of the cave were fully submerged in water and the journey seemed treacherous for the boys, aged 11 to 16. Rescuers began to frantically pump water out of the cave, while oxygen levels in the cave began to drop on Friday.

As the threat of more rains that could further flood the cave loomed, a rescue mission to get the team, whose nickname is the Wild Boars, out of the cave began in earnest on Sunday morning. At least 13 specialist divers and five Thai Navy SEALS were sent in escort the boys and their coach out.

Vox’s Radhika Viswanathan has a full explainer on the situation here.

 Javier Zarracina/Vox

On Sunday, four boys were saved, and after a pause on Sunday evening, a second phase of the mission commenced to attempt to rescue the others. Four more were rescued Monday, and the mission resumed Tuesday morning, when the final four boys and their coach were brought out of the cave. Here’s what else we know:

What we know

  • The mission to rescue the 12 boys and their soccer coach from a cave in northern Thailand began at 10 am local time Sunday.
  • Thirteen specialist divers and five Thai Navy SEALS were sent to try to reach the boys and get them out. The plan is to pair each person being rescued with two divers, fit them with a facemask connected to an air tank, and escort them out.
  • The Thai Navy SEAL’s Facebook page confirmed on Tuesday that all 12 boys and the coach had been saved. “We are not sure if this is a miracle, a science, or what. All the thirteen Wild Boars are now out of the cave,” it said.
  • Chiang Rai acting Gov. Narongsak Osatanakorn, who is leading the rescue operation, said at a news conference that efforts went “much better than expected” and that the healthiest people were taken out first.
  • A second phase of the operation started at 11 am local time on Monday and involved many of the same divers. Four more boys were retrieved on Monday, putting the total of boys rescued at eight. The mission is on pause again.
  • The coach taught the boys to meditate inside the cave to help them stay calm.
  • Part of the operation’s success hinged on whether monsoon rains pick up again. According to the New York Times, rain won’t immediately make water levels rise in the cave, but it will make matters even more urgent.
  • The route the boys and divers needed to travel to get out of the cave was 2.5 miles from the cave entrance, and portions of it are submerged, but not all. It takes experienced divers about five hours to make the trip.
  • The escape route is fraught: A former Thai Navy SEAL, 38-year-old Saman Gunan, died on Friday while trying to reach the group with oxygen.
  • The boys and their coach have been trapped in the cave since Saturday, June 23, and they were discovered on Monday, July 2.
  • It was initially thought they might be able to wait out monsoon season in the cave, but dropping oxygen levels have caused concern. An air pipe has been run from the rescue base inside the cave to the chamber where the boys and their coach are located, about 2.5 miles from the mouth of the cave.
 Javier Zarracina/Vox

What we don’t know

  • How long it may take the boys physically and mentally to recover from the ordeal