Thai cave rescue dominates social media

Marie-Louise Gumuchian and Hazel Baker

Audiences around the world have cheered the rescue of 12 boys and their soccer coach from a cave in Thailand with messages of support as the saga generated suggestions of help, prayers and - finally - expressions of relief.

People turned to television, news sites and social media to keep up with the fate of the Wild Boar soccer team that went missing while exploring the cave in Chiang Rai in northern Thailand on June 23.

A Google search on Tuesday for the words "Thai cave rescue" revealed 359,000,000 results, with interest peaking since last week when British divers found the boys and the rescue mission began.

"Miracles may happen every day but this is one for the ages," said Cornell Brooks, chief executive of the NAACP civil rights group in the United States.

With international journalists stationed outside the cave, television stations have carried updates and the story has ranked highly in terms of the most read or viewed items on sites such as Britain's BBC and NBC News.

On social media, live Facebook videos from the reporters and volunteers on the ground have been popular.

On Twitter and Instagram, well-wishers sent messages of support, advice and sketches of the boys in the cave using hashtags such as #Thaicaverescue #boarteam #Thainavyseals #PrayForThaiBoys and #Bringtheboarteambackhome.

A Thai navy SEAL Facebook post confirming all 13 had been rescued on Tuesday had more than 200,000 likes and around 56,000 shares in the space of an hour, sparking comments such as: "You are ALL HEROES! Thank you on behalf of a grateful world!" and "On behalf of all mothers I thank you".

On Twitter there were 160,000 tweets containing "All 12".

Footballers and clubs also welcomed the news, posting messages on Twitter as well as invitations to the boys.

Manchester United invited the team and their rescuers to Old Trafford while Portuguese club Benfica invited them to spend a week at their training camp near Lisbon. Manchester City and England defender Kyle Walker asked on Twitter for an address to send the boys shirts.

FIFA invited the team to attend the World Cup final in Moscow on Sunday but the boys cannot be there for medical reasons.