It was the mission that captivated the world and now the men behind the dramatic rescue of a trapped soccer team have released incredible footage from inside the flooded cave, giving a glimpse of the claustrophobic conditions they endured for 18 days.
Standing deep in murky waters, the footage released on the Thai Navy SEALs Facebook page shows a complex operation with numerous divers — both foreign and Thai — using pulleys, ropes and rubber piping to haul members of the soccer team to safety.
The 12 boys were passed “sleeping” on stretchers through the treacherous passageways, a former Thai Navy SEAL told AFP Wednesday, giving the first clear details of an astonishing rescue mission that has captivated the world.
The nerve-shredding three-day operation ended on Tuesday with the final group of four boys and the coach emerging from the cave which had held them captive for 18 days.
The rescue sparked jubilation with Thais heaping praise on the rescue team of foreign and local divers as the triumphant tagline, “Hooyah”, pinballed across social media.
On Wednesday, several of the boys were filmed in the hospital, flashing peace signs.
Rescue mission chief Narongsak Osottanakorn told a news conference the boys were just being children when they got lost and no-one was to blame.
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The video showed some of the boys wearing surgical masks, laying on their beds, while others sat and made the “peace sign” gesture for the camera.
Health department inspector Thongchai Lertwilairattanapong earlier told reporters one of the members from the last group rescued on Tuesday had a lung infection, and they were all given vaccinations for rabies and tetanus.
None of the boys were heard speaking in the clips shown at the news conference.
The 12 boys and their soccer coach lost an average of two kilograms during their ordeal, but were generally in good condition and showed no signs of stress, a senior health official said earlier.
After being brought out of the cave, one by one beginning on Sunday, they were taken by helicopter to hospital in the town of Chiang Rai, about 70 km away, to stay in quarantine.
The boys would have to stay in hospital for up to 10 days, hospital director Chaiwetch Thanapaisal told the news conference.
They would then need to recuperate at home for 30 days, he said.
Parents of the first eight boys freed have been able to visit them but had to wear protective suits and stand two metres away as a precaution.
Authorities are worried about the possibility of infections picked up in the cave.