Thai Junior Soccer Team Found Alive In Cave After Nine Days

A massive international search was underway for the team in a cave network that stretches 10 kilometres into a mountain.

CHIANG RAI, Thailand (Reuters) -- Twelve boys and their assistant soccer coach have been found alive by rescuers inside a Thai cave complex nine days after they went missing, Chiang Rai province’s governor said on Monday.

 The boys, aged between 11 and 16, went missing with the 25-year-old after soccer practice on June 23 after they set out to explore the Tham Luang cave complex in a forest park near by the border with Myanmar.

A massive international rescue effort has been under way since, with rescue teams battling through thick mud and high water to try to reach the group in the cave network that stretches 10 km into a mountain.

“Thai Navy seals have found all 13 with signs of life,” Governor Narongsak Osottanakorn told reporters who have been following the increasingly desperate search that has gripped the country.

Entrance to one of the caves in the investigation. Image: Reuters.

Relatives of the boys, who have been at a shelter near the cave hoping for a breakthrough, were seen cheering, smiling and receiving calls after being given the news. Rescuers shook hands and congratulated each other as occasional cheers broke out.

It remains unclear whether any of the group are injured or in need of medical attention, but they have been given energy gels to sustain them while a plan is worked out to bring them to safety.

As the days wore on with the group missing, distraught family members had placed fruit, desserts, sugary drinks and sweets on mats near the cave as an offering to the spirits which some people believe protect the cave and the forest.

Rescuers had been working on Monday to clear a constricted passageway for divers deep inside the flooded complex in a search operation that has been hampered by heavy rain.