Coach of rescued Thai soccer team a 'country boy' longing for citizenship

Lawrence Kim
July 12, 2018

The water pumps failed, and commander Chaiyananta Peeranarong heard shouts of alarm as the final stage of an unprecedented operation to rescue 12 Thai boys and their coach from a flooded cave nearly tipped into disaster.

"We're here really looking at this as a movie that could inspire millions of people across the globe", Scott added. "I don't have any details about when they were being transferred from the cave", he said.

All 13 were finally brought out after a dramatic rescue through flooded tunnels this week and remain in hospital.

The boys had earlier received an invitation to come watch the World Cup final in Russian Federation, but doctors said they could not go as they were still confined to their hospital beds.

Several boys can be seen in facemasks and hospital gowns, at least one giving a victory sign for the camera.

None of the boys was heard speaking in the clips shown at the news conference.

"Don't need to worry about their physical health and even more so for their mental health", said Chaiwetch Thanapaisal, director of Chiang Rai Prachanukroh Hospital. They were flown by helicopter to join their teammates in quarantine at the Chiang Rai hospital. None of the four boys who were the first group to be evacuated from the cave has a fever, and the three boys who have minor lung infections are improving, Thai officials said, adding that they are taking less medication and can eat anything they want.

The first boys rescued on Sunday have been allowed to see their relatives through a glass partition and speak to them on a telephone line.

The three Thai Navy SEALs and Thai doctor who were with the children for the full eight days from their discovery to the rescue are fine as well, he said.

Then on July 10, the remaining four boys and their coach were brought out of the cave.

However, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha has said precautions would have to be implemented both inside and outside the cave to safeguard tourists.

"The important thing is ... personal space", Prayuth told reporters.

Getting them out - which involved teaching boys as young as 11 who were not strong swimmers to dive through narrow, submerged passages - proved a monumental challenge.

The rescue was fraught with danger, a point underscored last Friday (June 6) by the death of a retired Thai Navy SEAL diver as he ran out of air in the flooded cave complex.

Narongsak Osatanakorn is the official who oversaw the rescue operation. But the unit's chief, Rear-Admiral Arpakorn Yuukongkaew, downplayed his men's efforts when he spoke to The Straits Times.

"We are not heroes. This mission was successful because of cooperation from everyone", he said. "For SEALs, this is what we were trained for".

The footage, which was posted on the Thai Navy SEAL Facebook page and captioned "the operation the world never forgets", appears to show the workers carrying the boys on stretchers.

The complex mission for global and Thai divers to guide the boys and coach through the cave's flooded and tight passageways had riveted people worldwide.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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