The plight of the 12 members of a Thai soccer team stranded underground in a flooded cave network has gripped the world for the past week and prompted a huge response.
After rescue divers made contact with them after nine days of isolation, frantic efforts have been underway to figure out how to free the boys and their coach. But it won’t be easy.
These photographs show key moments from the rescue efforts so far and the small army of support and relief staff workers dedicated to freeing the stranded team.
The team of 12 boys and their coach first went into the caves on June 23. Here’s a photo of them before they were trapped.
The boys were at least a mile into the system when they got stuck, as shown by this map of the cave network.
For the families of the boys, the wait to see if their children would be found alive was excruciating.
The rescue efforts have involved hundreds of people …
… including Thailand’s police, military, air force, and navy SEALs, as well as international divers. But their efforts were hampered by the same rains that trapped the soccer players in the first place.
As well as police officers and military personnel, volunteers have come to the area to support both rescuers and family members.
There are even volunteer barbers giving free haircuts to rescuers and relatives.
The efforts have involved groups from Australia, China, and the UK.
The rescue operation has become a priority for the country. Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha came to supervise operations and spoke to the family members of the children and their coach.
Buddhist monks have come to the site to lead prayer ceremonies.
Hundreds of people have worked inside the cave network.
Thai officials used maps of the cave to find the way to approach the boys.
The rescuers have also kept the families informed.
British cave-divers led the mission to find the missing team.
They were aided by local rescuers, seen here carrying the divers’ equipment out of the cave.
The 12 boys and their coach were found alive on Monday, nine days after they entered the cave.
Relatives of the missing boys celebrated and showed the journalists photos of their loved ones.
But getting the boys out will be challenging. Hundreds of rescuers are still being sent inside the cave.
Workers have installed water pump hoses in an effort to drain the water that has trapped the boys in the cave.
The hope is that the pumps can drain the cave and let the boys walk out before monsoon rains start this weekend.
The boys might also have to scuba-dive out of the cave system, once they’ve learned how. The governor of Chiang Rai said the boys had started practicing in the cave.
He said they were in a “race against time” to rescue the boys before the weekend’s rain. If they lose, the boys may be stuck for four months, until the monsoon rains end.
Another option is to drill down into the cave and rescue them through a hole.
In the meantime, relatives and rescue workers are waiting anxiously in a makeshift camp near the cave.
Rescue workers are practicing medical training at the entrance of the cave, getting ready to rush to the boys’ aid the moment they are freed.
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