Epic Rescue Saves Soccer Team Lost for 10 Days in Caves

A Thai youth soccer team has been found alive after 10 days missing in a flooded cave complex.

A group of 12 boys, ages 11 to 16, and their 25-year-old soccer coach were found alive Monday in the Tham Luang Nang Non cave after they disappeared on June 23 and were trapped by flooding caused by heavy rains.

“We found them safe. But the operation isn’t over,” Chiang Rai provincial Gov. Narongsak Osatanakorn said, according to the Associated Press. “When the medics have evaluated the kids to see if their health is in good condition, we will care for them until they have enough strength to move by themselves, and then we will evaluate the situation on bringing them out again later.”

The search for the missing soccer team, which included dozens of NAVY Seal divers and rescue divers from across the world, was impeded by several obstacles, including murky water and next to no light in the cave system, which frequently floods and cuts off passageways during the rainy season. Divers had been searching around the clock for the group, using large pumps to drain water out of sections of the cave to allow rescuers to drill into the tunnels to widen them.

On Monday, it was announced that the divers were just 600 yards away from Pattaya Beach, an elevated rock mound within the cave system that is oftentimes used by those inside the cave when flooding occurs, according to USA Today.

Although found, rescuers and the group still face many obstacles, including the decision of whether to supply the group with supplies or attempt to evacuate them.

“Supplying them on site may face challenges depending on how difficult the dives are. Trying to take non-divers through a cave is one of the most dangerous situations possible, even if the dives are relatively easy. That also begets the question: If the dives are difficult then supply will be difficult, but the risk of trying to dive them out is also exponentially greater,” said leading American cave rescue expert Anmar Mirza.

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The cave system is described as being tough for even experienced divers, with tunnels that go upwards and then downwards and tight passages, which is only made worse by poor visibility. Rescue teams are currently searching for alternate routes to extract the group, including fissures and other entrances to the cave along the mountainside.

According to the BBC, experts have stated that the operation to remove the group from the cave could take weeks.