Twelve boys and their football coach have all been found alive after being trapped in a cave in Thailand for 10 days, officials have said
The boys, aged between 11 and 16, and their 25-year-old coach have been trapped in the Tham Luang Nang Non cave complex in Chiang Rai province since June 23.
A huge international rescue effort has been under way, with teams slowly making their way through thick mud and high water to try to reach the group in a network that stretches 10km (6 miles) into a mountain.
Divers located the group in a chamber on higher ground deep inside the partially flooded cave.
Now the rescue effort begins to get them out.
Provincial governor Narongsak Osatanakorn said they had been found safe but “the operation isn’t over”.
“When the medics have evaluated the kids to see if their health is in good condition, we will care for them until they have enough strength to move by themselves, and then we will evaluate the situation on bringing them out again later,” the governor said.
Sky News’ Lisa Holland, who is at the scene, said: “We have been told by a teacher at a school where half of the boys go to (that) the boys have been found and that they are alive but they are very weak.
“Now the difficulty is getting them out because they are underground within this massive cave complex.
“Things have been complicated because the underground complex is completely flooded due to heavy monsoon rain.
“Divers have managed to reach the boys and they have managed to get shelter at an area known underground as Pattaya Beach – that’s a sort of nickname given to it by local people.”
“Getting back from this area in the caves and back to the mouth of the caves is going to be very, very tricky indeed, because the divers have only managed to reach the Pattaya Beach area because they are skilled.
“One of them told me that they can barely see their hand in front of their face.
“If that’s what the divers have faced and they have been trying to reach them for 10 days, it’s going to be very, very difficult to get those boys out, particularly of course because they are so weak.”
There were jubilant scenes outside the cave as overjoyed relatives hugged and cheered upon hearing that the boys are alive.
Aisha Wiboonrungrueng, mother of 11-year-old Chanin, hugged her family and said she would cook her son a Thai fried omelette, his favourite food, when he returns home.
“I’m so happy I can’t put it into words,” said another relative.
Thailand’s prime minister Prayuth Chan-ocha thanked the international experts and rescuers who helped locate the missing for their “tremendous efforts.”
Expert divers said they had made progress earlier on Monday after reaching a bend where a half-mile passageway splits into two directions.
But hopes of finding the boys alive had started to fade.
“I think in truth even the families of the missing boys and their coach would say that this is astonishing news,” said Holland.
“I really think we had reached the stage where people were saying ‘look we have to pray for a miracle, we have to hope for a miracle’.”
The “Wild Boar” footballers and their coach went missing after a practice and were said to have two to three days of food with them.
Rescuers said they believed the boys could stay alive by drinking fresh water in the cave, either dripping in through rocks or rushing in through the entrance.
But it was feared run-off water from nearby farms could carry dangerous chemicals and bacteria.
Tham Luang cave is one of Thailand’s hardest caves to navigate, with snaking chambers and narrow passageways.
A sign outside the site warns visitors not to enter during the rainy season between July and November.