Rising waters, no air: How Thai cave rescue nearly went wrong

Thai cave survivors unable to attend World Cup final says FIFA

They were found by a pair of British divers 10 days later, huddled on a small, dry shelf just above the water, smiling with relief but visibly skinny.

"He said the only thing I want to do now is hug my son, embrace him and ask him how he's feeling".

Australia's hero doctor and his dive partner say the successful rescue of a young Thai soccer team from a flooded cave system is "beyond our imagination".

The boys and their coach have now all been taken to hospital after the three-day evacuation that was a battle against heavy, predicted rain.

He also paid a tribute to former Thai navy SEAL, Saman Kunan, who died last week during the rescue mission. They will be able to eat normally this evening.

"It might be because they were all together as a team, helping each other out", Thongchai Lertwilairattanapong, Inspector General of the Public Health Ministry told reporters, singling out their 25-year-old coach for keeping their spirits high.

The group had entered the sprawling Tham Luang cave in northern Thailand to go exploring after soccer practice on June 23, but monsoon rains filled the tight passageways, blocking their escape, and pushing them deeper inside in search of a refuge.

The commander of the navy SEAL unit that oversaw the rescue, Rear Admiral Apakorn Yuukongkaew, hailed the global effort.

Thailand spent yesterday celebrating the successful mission. The navy has a motto: "We don't abandon the people". There were volunteers from Denmark, Germany, Belgium, Canada, Ukraine and Finland.

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The second group of boys rescued has been given approval to see their parents through glass, but the third group are still undergoing tests, he said. Social media has been abuzz for days with chatter about the inevitable "Thailand Cave Rescue: The Movie".

The catchphrase "Hooyah" was trending on Twitter after Thai Navy SEALs used it repeatedly on their Facebook page as a rallying cry during the operation.

According to a document released by the Thai authorities, the plan was that two divers would accompany each of the boys, who were being brought out in groups.

Australian media said he put his own life at risk to venture four kilometres into the flooded cave to medically assess the 12 boys and their coach.

Richard Harris, a world-renowned medic and diver whose presence in the dramatic rescue of the Wild Boars squad was specially requested by experts, was reportedly the last person to leave the water-logged cavern on Tuesday.

"This victory goes to the heroes of the day, well done boys, you are so strong", French midfielder Paul Pogba tweeted after his team beat Belgium 1-0 on Tuesday to reach the final.

FC Barcelona responded Wednesday it had invited the team to a match at its Camp Nou stadium in April and to take part in a gathering in the Spanish city of more than 2,000 youngsters from the club's football academies around the world.

A Google search on Tuesday for the words "Thai cave rescue" revealed 359 million results.

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