Wrapped in emergency blankets and appearing visibly frail, 12 boys and their adult coach said hello to the outside world in a brief video message Wednesday from deep inside a cave in northern Thailand where they have been trapped for eleven days.
A video shared by the Thai Navy SEALs leading the rescue mission shows them introducing themselves and stating their age. “Sawadee krap,” each boy says with his palms together in wai, the traditional Thai greeting. A second video shows a medic treating their feet and gaunt legs.
One boy asked if he could have some food.
“You guys are about to get a meal,” the cameraman assured him as the medic checked his watch.
Rescue divers found the 12 boys, all members of the Wild Boars soccer team aged between 11 and 16, and their assistant coach, 25, late Monday after a dramatic search lasting more than a week. More than 1,000 people were involved in the effort to find them, a fraught mission that the provincial governor said at times felt “impossible.”
Cheers erupted at a camp outside the Tham Luang cave’s entrance when they had all been found alive. Relatives, who had been sleeping on plastic chairs and cots under a tarpaulin tent since their disappearance, burst into tears. For a few short hours the nation rejoiced that the search had ended, but the rescue is only beginning.
Authorities are racing to find a way to get them out of the cave before monsoon season, which began in May, hits full swing. Heavy rains are expected to resume this week. A Belgian diver assisting the search said none of the boys know how to swim, yet teaching them to dive is one option for their escape.
Narongsak Osottanakorn, the governor of Chiang Rai province where the cave is located, said the boys are in stable health condition and that a communications system is being installed to allow them to speak with their families soon for the first time since their disappearance.
The boys are believed to have entered the cave after practice on June 23 with their assistant coach, Ekkapol Chantawong, on what was meant to be a half-day trek. But monsoon rains flooded several chambers and blocked their exit.
The saga of the trapped team has gripped the nation as search efforts snowballed from a small local team to a multinational emergency response. U.S. and Australian military personnel came to support Thai authorities, as well as technical experts from the U.K., China, Japan and elsewhere.
Rescuers initially believed they had likely taken shelter in a large chamber known as Pattaya Beach, roughly 3.5 miles from the cave’s entrance. A pair of British divers assisting the Thai SEALs found them some 1,300 feet further into the complex after discovering Pattaya was also flooded.
A video shared by the Thai Navy captured their first contact.
“How many of you?” a man’s voice asked as a flashlight scanned the young boys huddled in a corner.
“Thirteen,” a voice rang out.
“Thirteen?” asked the diver. “Brilliant.”