If you listened close enough, you probably heard the collective sigh of relief and whoops of joy around the world last night, July 10, 2018, when the remaining members of the Thailand soccer team, the Wild Boars, finally made it out of the cave after being trapped for more than two weeks. The 12 boys, ages 11 to 16, and their 25-year-old coach are quarantined at Chiang Rai hospital for at least another seven days to make sure don't develop any kind of infection from staying in the cave for too long.
The boys and their coach, Ekkapol Ake Chantawong, parked their bikes and ventured into the Tham Luang Nang cave complex on June 23. It wasn't their first trip to the cave, but this time it was the monsoon season. They got trapped when flood waters blocked the route towards the cave's exit.
When their respective families reported them missing, Thai rescue officials searched for them in the thick mountain forests. They only realized they were trapped in the cave when they saw the teams' bikes and other belongings near the mouth of the cave. By that time, only divers could enter and search the cave, now submerged in rising and fast flowing water.
On July 2, British rescue divers finally located the boys and their coach four kilometers deep into the Tham Luang Nang cave — they had gone without without food and water for nine days. It took the rescuers another week to devise a plan to bring the boys out to safety.
It was an 18-day rescue mission that gripped the whole world, and it has rallied people from all walks of life to help in any way they can. The rescue's success will be remembered as one of the best moments where humanity prevailed.
Oxygen levels in the cave were rapidly depleting. Former Petty Officer Saman Kunan, a 38-year-old retired Thai Navy Seal, was one of the volunteers who delivered oxygen tanks to the cave. Sadly, Guran, whose last photo was taken above, lost consciousness on his way out of the treacherous cave and died shortly after on July 6. His sacrifice was a grim reminder of how this rescue mission was dangerous.
Bravo to the four Thai Navy Seals that stayed in the cave.
As soon as the team were found alive, four Thai Navy Seals stayed in the cave and got to work. A medic administered first aid, and the other three taught the boys survival skills, including swimming and basic diving instructions. The world erupted in cheers when the four vacated and emerged from the cave unharmed as well.
The spirit of volunteerism is alive and well!
More than 100 divers, climbers, and rescuers from Europe, Australia, Asia, and the U.S. volunteered their skills and expertise to help make the rescue mission a success. Before the team was located in Tham Luang Nang cave complex, volunteers were already combing the thick Thai forests and searching through every cave. We know of one Filipino among them, rock climber Cedjie Takumi Aquino, who is based in Thailand.
Vernon Unsworth (above), a British, was the first on the scene among cave divers. It was his map of the cave that helped the rescuers plot a way to get to the boys. He was the one who called on his friends from the U.K. to help.
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These British men, John Volanthen and Rick Stanton (above), found the boys and their coach. They are regarded as the best cave divers in the world and led the rescue operations.
The rescuers wouldn't have been able to concentrate on their mission without nourishment and, yes, laundry services. Many volunteers flocked to the campsites to provide food or cook for the rescuers and make halal meals for the trapped boys and their coach. Others offered to wash and press their clothes so the rescuers could have clean, dry clothes after a long, arduous search in the jungle and in the caves.
Rice farmers who live near Tham Luang Cave sacrificed their fields.
The Tham Luang Cave needed to be drained of water to help the divers locate the soccer team and buy time to get them out safely. That meant flooding the rice fields of dozens of rice farmers who live near the cave. It was reported that the government offered compensation for their ruined crops.
Small businesses also wanted to make a difference.
There was a lot in the news about billionaire businessman and engineer Elon Musk, who volunteered his company's underwater vessel to help the rescuers get the boys to safety. It ended up not getting used. But there were many small businesses who offered diving gear and oxygen tank rentals for free. Some supplied space blankets to keep the boys warm as they waited for the rescuers to lead them out of the cave.
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In a world where it can feel like it is every man (or woman) for himself, the Thailand rescue cave showed so many people who simply wanted to help, even at the cost of their lives. Now that is humanity at its greatest.