Thai cave boys speak of 'miracle' rescue after hospital discharge

CHIANG RAI, THAILAND: Twelve boys and their football coach who were  rescued after being trapped for over a fortnight in a flooded Thai cave spoke publicly of their incredible ordeal for the first time on Wednesday at a press conference beamed around the world.

The “Wild Boars” team members looked healthy and happy as they answered questions about the nine days they spent in the dark before being discovered by members of an international rescue team.

Twelves boys, dramatically rescued from deep inside a Thai cave after being trapped for more than a fortnight, wave as they arrive for a press conference in Chiang Rai on July 18, 2018. PHOTO: AFP

A packed crowd greeted the youngsters some of whom were trapped in the cave for 18 days after they were discharged from hospital in Chiang Rai, and watched as they played with footballs on a small makeshift pitch before taking their seats.

“It is a miracle,” Wild Boars footballer Adul Sam-on, 14, said of the rescue, as the boys were gently quizzed about their terrifying experience.

Thai cave boys to leave hospital, speak to media

The team had no food at all until they were found deep in the complex, surviving only on water that dripped down the side of the cave.

The young footballers and their coach appeared healthy when they appeared before the media for the first time on July 18. PHOTO: AFP

“We tried to dig out as we thought we cannot only wait for authorities to get us,” coach Ekkapol Chantawong told reporters.

But doctors said all 13 were in good physical and mental health after recuperating in hospital.

The briefing was tightly controlled, with experts warning of possible long-term distress from the more than two weeks they spent trapped inside a cramped, flooded chamber of the Tham Luang cave in northern Thailand.

The public relations department in Chiang Rai solicited questions from news outlets in advance, which were forwarded to psychiatrists for screening.

Rescued Thai football coach Ekkapol Chantawong (L) together with 12 children pays tribute during a press conference in Chiang Rai on July 18, 2018 following their discharge from the hospital to volunteer and former Navy SEAL diver Saman Kunan who died during the rescue operation. PHOTO: AFP

Thailand’s junta leader Prayut Chan-O-Cha urged the media Wednesday to be “cautious in asking unimportant questions” that could cause unspecified damage.

Interest in the saga has been intense, with film production houses already eyeing a Hollywood treatment of the drama.

Doctors have advised families of the players, aged 11 to 16, that they should avoid letting them contact journalists for at least one month.

‘Hooyah! Mission accomplished’ greets Thai boys rescued from cave

The boys, who will return to their families on Wednesday night, announced their plan to temporarily ordain as monks to honour the death of Saman Kunan, a Thai Navy SEAL who died during the rescue.

Local artists work on a mural dedicated to the successful rescue of the ‘Wild Boars” football team outside an art gallery in Chiang Rai province on July 18, 2018. PHOTO: AFP

Khameuy Promthep, the grandmother of 13-year-old Dom, one of the boys rescued from the cave, said in an interview at their family shop in Mae Sai near the Myanmar border on Wednesday that she was very excited.

“This is the happiest day of my life,” she said.

The daring Thai-led international effort to rescue the team captivated the world after the football team walked into the cave on June 23 and were trapped by rising floodwaters.

After nine days without food, they were found emaciated and huddled in a group on a muddy ledge by British divers several kilometres inside Tham Luang.

Rescuers debated on the best plan to bring them out but ultimately decided on a risky operation that involved diving them through waterlogged passages while they were sedated to keep them calm, and carrying them out in military-grade stretchers.

Adul Sam-on (C), one of the twelve boys dramatically rescued from deep inside a Thai cave after being trapped for more than a fortnight, speaks during a press conference in Chiang Rai on July 18, 2018, following their discharge from the hospital. PHOTO: AFP

Not even the foreign cave diving specialists who took part were sure the mission would work. Many expressed huge relief after the final five were rescued on July 10.

Thai cave rescue site to become a museum

Further attention was drawn to the rescue by a highly public row between entrepreneur Elon Musk and a British caver who took part in the rescue.

Tesla CEO Musk called Vernon Unsworth a “pedo” in an extraordinary social media attack, after the caving expert had ridiculed Musk’s plan to recover the trapped group using a miniature submarine.

Musk on Wednesday apologised to Unsworth over the slur, for which he had provided no justification or explanation.

Nonetheless, his actions against me do not justify my actions against him, and for that I apologize to Mr. Unsworth and to the companies I represent as leader. The fault is mine and mine alone.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 18, 2018

Musk’s attack on Unsworth had drawn widespread outrage and briefly sent shares in Tesla tumbling. Unsworth said he may take legal action against Musk over the offensive tweet.

VIDEO: Twelve Thai boys and their football coach who were dramatically rescued from a flooded cave appear before the media for the first time for a press conference. The "Wild Boars" team members wore football jerseys when they entered the conference room in Chiang Rai province

— AFP news agency (@AFP) July 18, 2018

Recently concluded mission to save 12 trapped boys to be made into film soon

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