An intricate rescue mission has saved all 12 boys and their soccer coach from flooded caves in northern Thailand, ending an 18-day ordeal that immersed around the world.
The remaining four boys of the group and their 25-year-old coach were led out of Tham Luang cave early on Tuesday evening 6pm (9pm AEST), marking the end of the mission that claimed the life of experienced diver during the rescue.
19 divers led the members of the Wild Boars soccer team out of Tham Luang cave, with the youngest of the group aged at just 11 years-old the last one to reach the surface.
The medic and three of Thailand’s Navy SEALs who had stayed with the boys and were central to the rescue effort came out of the cave several hours later.
A team of Thai and international divers rescued eight of the boys on Sunday and Monday.
Rescue commander Narongsak Osotanakorn claimed the mission was complete in a press conference at 9:40pm (12:40am Wednesday AEST), after confirming that the doctor and Navy SEALSs had left the cave.
“We did something nobody thought possible,” Mr Osotanakorn said to cheers at a local government office where dozens of volunteers and journalists awaited to hear whether the high-risk rescue operation had succeeded.
“It was mission possible for team Thailand.”
“This mission was successful because we had power. The power of love. Everybody sent it to the 13.”
Mr Osotanakorn also hailed military diver Saman Gunan as the “hero of Tham Luang cave”, despite his death on Friday.
The SEALs also confirmed that the mission was a success.
“We are not sure if this is a miracle, a science, or what,” they said.
“All the 13 Wild Boars are now out of the cave. Everyone is safe.”
The news was greeted by car horns honking outside the hospital in the nearby city of Chiang Rai where the boys were taken for treatment.
Meanwhile, Thais demonstrated their feelings about the rescue on social media using hashtags including #Heroes and #Thankyou.
The boys aged 11-years-old to 16-years-old who were part of the Wild Boars soccer team were exploring Tham Luang cave after a soccer practice session on June 23
They became trapped when the cave flooded by monsoon rains.
The boys were found by British divers last week, huddled in darkness on a ledge.
Jubilation at their discovery turned to concern however as it emerged how difficult it would be to rescue the boys because they could not swim.
Divers guided the boys through the floods through three days of intricately planned operations, through a route that was just a crawl space in some places.
Cave divers had previously warned a rescue would be risky to dive the young boys out, but Thai officials seized an opportunity provided by mild weather, concerned that the boys could be trapped for months by monsoon rains that would raise the water levels in the cave.
Confidence grew after a successful mission resulted in the first four boys leaving the cave.
The first eight boys rescued on Sunday and Monday are still in hospital but are said to be in good mental and physical health.
They have been joined by the four boys and coach who were rescued on Tuesday.
They will remain under observation in hospital for at least seven days.
Their parents have been allowed to see them through a glass window at the hospital but have been quarantined.
The boys have also lost weight and are keen to eat but solid food will be introduced slowly to prevent digestive upset.
They will also need to wear sunglasses for a few days until their eyes readjust to the brighter light.
Offers of hospitality for the football team have come in from around the world including global football governing body FIFA offered them tickets for Sunday’s World Cup final in Moscow, but they are too weak to travel.