'I want to hug him': Father of Thai cave boy shares relief

The father of one of the 12 boys trapped in a flooded Thai cave has revealed the first thing he wants to tell his son following an excruciating wait for his rescue.

Parents had not seen their boys since they went exploring after soccer practice and became trapped in the Tham Luang cave in Chiang Rai on June 23.

The boys, aged 11 to 16, and their 25-year-old coach were rescued over a three-day operation, with the final five brought out of the cave on Tuesday.

The boys became trapped in the cave on June 23. Source: AP

The only contact parents had with their children for 17 days was through short letters written by the boys from inside the cave, brought out by divers who took part in the rescue mission.

The father of 14-year-old Akarat Wongsukchan held his breath as his son was pulled out of the cave on Monday with three other boys. He did not see his son straight away, and instead stayed with parents waiting for the last boys to be rescued on Tuesday.

He has now revealed the first thing he wants to do when he finally sees his son in hospital.

“I jut want to hug him … and I want to tell him that I’m happy,” Adisak Wongsukchan told CNN.

Adisak Wongsukchan wants to tell his son he’s happy. Source: CNN

Boys still face health issues: doctors

The boys and their coach are recovering from the ordeal in hospital and are being monitored closely as they still face health issues.

The first eight boys rescued came in with low body temperatures and were provided with heaters, Thai doctors said on Tuesday.

One had a low heart rate and one had a scratch on his right ankle. Doctors suspected two had lung infections – probably pneumonia – based on irregular x-rays.

An ambulance heads to the hospital in Chiang Rai. Source: AP

But overall the boys are feeling better, with no fever, and are getting around on their own with smiles on their faces.

Doctors said the boys were still being kept quarantined and parents have only been allowed to see them through a glass isolation barrier and talk to them via hospital phones.

It could be at least seven days before they can be released from hospital, said Jedsada Chokdumrongsuk, permanent secretary at the Public Health Ministry.

The boys are being closely monitored by medical staff. Source: AP

The boys were malnourished and weak and doctors are likely worried they could be susceptible to germs spread by family members or other visitors, said Dr W Ian Lipkin, a Columbia University infectious diseases expert.

It’s also possible they are an infection risk to others. Thai doctors said they didn’t know what type of unusual illnesses the boys may have picked up in the cave.

“We have never experienced this kind of issue from a deep cave,” Mr Jedsada said. 

Bats in caves can spread viruses ranging from rabies to Nipah, which can cause pneumonia, seizures and death. Experts say it’s unlikely bats would dwell as deep in the cave as the boys were.