All 12 boys and their football coach have been rescued from a flooded cave in northern Thailand after being trapped for 18 days, rescuers said on July 10.
"We've made the mission impossible a mission completed, which is the first ever case in the world," Narongsak Osatanakorn, head of the joint command center coordinating the operation, said at a press briefing on the night of July 10.
Narongsak confirmed that a medic and all navy SEAL divers involved in the rescue mission have also left the cave safely.
"We witness the power of love. Everybody sent love to the 13 boys. The heroes this time are people all over the world," he said, referring to the multinational team that assisted in the rescue operation.
The 12 young footballers, aged between 11 and 16, and their 25-year-old coach went missing during an excursion in Tham Luang cave in northern Thailand's Chiang Rai Province since June 23.
They were found on July 2 after the search, joined by more than 1,000 rescuers, entered the ninth day.
In an extremely difficult mission, rescuers had to dive the boys out as most of the passages were submerged by a flash flood. The boys were thus trained with basic diving skills.
A team of more than 100 expert divers had been working in the cave, guiding the boys and their coach through darkness and inundated passageways towards the mouth of the cave system.
The rescue process included a mixture of walking, wading, climbing and diving along guide ropes.
Each boy, wearing full-face mask, was accompanied by two divers, who also carried the boy's air supply.
The first 11-hour rescue operation on July 8 brought out four boys from the cave. Another four boys were extracted by the same team on July 9. These eight boys were being treated in hospital and were in good condition, according to hospital sources.
The remaining four boys and their coach were rescued on July 10 and were sent to hospital by helicopters.
The football coach was one of the last to be extricated from the cave.
The city of Chiang Rai burst into celebration at the news that all 13 people trapped in the cave had safely emerged.
Cheers erupted at a local government office where dozens of volunteers and journalists were awaiting updates on the success of the intricate and high-risk mission.
People on the street cheered and clapped when ambulances ferrying the last of the boys arrived at the city's hospital.
Chinese volunteer divers who joined the rescue mission called it a "tremendous and very dangerous operation."
According to rescue operation officials, the cave would then be closed.
(Xinhua News Agency July 10, 2018)