'Mission Complete': Wild Boars Rescued But Ordeal Not Over Yet
All 13 members of the Wild Boars team are being quarantined... but what they really want is to watch the World Cup.
It was the moment the entire world had waited for: confirmation that all 12 boys and their soccer coach were safely out of the Tham Luang cave.
"We're not sure if this is a miracle, a science, or what," said the Thai Navy SEALS on Facebook just before 11pm AEST. "All the thirteen Wild Boars are now out of the cave."
A few hours later, the last remaining members of the rescue crew emerged from the cave, signalling the rescue mission complete.
But the boys' ordeal is not over yet.
A nation celebrates
Across Thailand, people cheered, cried and sung. In Chiang Rai, parties began to break out and drivers honked their horns.
"This is an important event in my life. It is something I will remember," said a "visibly emotional" Chiang Rai official, Rachapol Ngamgrabuan, according to Reuters.
"There were times when I cried. Happy. Very happy to see all Thai people love each other."
People shared illustrations commemorating the rescue online, or else used the hashtag #Hooyah (a phrase used by the Thai Navy SEALS) to celebrate.
World leaders tweeted their congratulations.
"On behalf of the United States, congratulations to the Thai Navy SEALs and all on the successful rescue of the 12 boys and their coach from the treacherous cave in Thailand," tweeted US President Donald Trump.
"Such a beautiful moment - all freed, great job!"
"Delighted to see the successful rescue of those trapped in the caves in Thailand," tweeted UK Prime Minister Theresa May. "The world was watching and will be saluting the bravery of all those involved."
A most dangerous mission
The highly complicated and downright treacherous rescue mission saw the team faced with an impossible choice: wait for the flood water to go down, possibly trapping the boys in the cave for months, or teach them to dive the labyrinth cave network, despite the fact that most of them couldn't even swim.
In the end, they chose the latter.
Some parts of the channel required the boys to hike. Others were so small, they had to pass their diving gear to the diver ahead of them.
The most treacherous part of the journey was the first kilometer, during which rescuers "needed to hold the boys' oxygen tanks in front of them and swim pencil-like through submerged holes", according to CNN.
"Nobody thought we could do it," said rescue mission chief Narongsak Osottanakorn at a press briefing at the end of the 17-day mission.
"It was a world first. It was Mission Possible for Team Thailand."
In the end, the team was split up and rescued over three consecutive nights: four boys were rescued on both the first and second nights, with the remaining four team members plus their coach being rescued on the third night.
More details of the rescue operation are expected to be released on Wednesday.
The "hero" of the mission
The dangers of the rescue mission were thrown into stark light with news that one of the experienced rescue divers ran out of oxygen during one of his dives.
Saman Kunan, a former Thai Navy SEAL who had returned to help the efforts, died on July 6 after running out of oxygen.
He was hailed the "hero of Tham Luang cave" at a press conference following the end of the mission, to rapturous applause.
Kunan is being praised by the wider public, who are asking people not to forget his sacrifice in their joy at the Wild Boars being rescued.
"Saman Kunan," reads one post on Facebook, which has been shared 250 thousand times. "Say his name. He's earned it."
An Australian doctor (and diver) by the name of Dr Richard Harris is being praised for his part in the rescue. Harris was instrumental in overseeing the rescue, persuading the Thailand team to rescue the weakest boys first.
He ended up being one of the last people to leave the cave.
A huge applause met Narongsak as he told a waiting crowd of media that the rescue mission was officially complete.
"The heroes this time are people all over the world," he said, reports AAP.
"This mission was successful because we had power. The power of love. Everybody sent it to the 13."
He shared a hug of joy with the army chief overseeing the rescue mission.
A picture showing the last four Thai Navy SEALs out of the cave giving the thumbs up was shared on Facebook. A total of 19 divers helped the final five members of the Wild Boar team out to safety.
"All four Thai Navy SEALs came out safely," the navy said.
"Hooyah hooyah hooyah."
The road to recovery
All thirteen Wild Boars members have been taken one-by-one to hospital via helicopter and ambulance, where they will stay for at least a week in quarantine.
Their parents have so far been allowed to see them through a glass window at the hospital, but will have to wait a while longer till they're able to hug their boys.
The team will be tested for all manner of diseases that could have been picked up during the more than two weeks they spent underground, including 'cave disease' (otherwise known as histoplasmosis, which can lead to meningitis), and other diseases spread by bat droppings.
Two of the boys have suspected lung infections, but the first four boys rescued were all walking around in hospital as of Wednesday night.
They'll also likely be treated for post-traumatic stress disorder.
"Long term, there will be the things that haunt them," trauma expert Prof. Alexander McFarlane told ten daily.
"When they can reflect on the risks, getting reminders of dark or being trapped can be intensely anxiety-provoking. Even feelings of being hungry or thirsty can make them again worry and be fearful of where they were."
But in the meantime, all the boys really want is to see their families, eat their favourite foods... and watch the World Cup.
"Do you know what the children said when they came out [of the cave]?" Ten Eyewitness News reporter Daniel Sutton asked Narongsak following the press briefing.
"Someone said that they want to see the World Cup," Narongsak replied.
Fingers crossed that after all these boys have been through, their hospital has a television.