Twelve members of a boys’ soccer team in Thailand and their coach have been found alive nine days after being trapped in a cave in the northern part of the country.
The governor of Chiang Rai province, Narongsak Osatanakorn, said all 13 were found safe at about 10:30 p.m. local time Monday, but the days-long rescue operation isn’t over, as rescuers still need to figure out how to get the team out of the cave, Thai News Agency reported.
The next step would be to check on the team members’ health, Narongsak told reporters.
“We will take care of them until they can move,” he told reporters, who applauded at the news that the boys and the coach were safe, according to Agence France-Presse. “We will bring food to them and a doctor who can dive. I’m not sure they can eat as they have not eaten for a while.”
ABC News foreign correspondent James Longman tweeted that one of the rescuers told him the boys and their coach are weak but not in critical condition. A doctor will spend the night with the group and determine when the 13 are strong enough to be taken out.
“They’re 2 miles in, it’s an arduous trip. And the rain is coming. But they’re alive,” Longman said in the tweet.
A video obtained by CNN shows the group barefoot and huddled together inside the dark cave.
The boys, ages 11 to 16, and their coach, 25, disappeared June 23 after entering the flooded Tham Luang Nang Non cave in a national park in Chiang Rai.
Dozens of local and international rescuers, including a team of Thai navy divers and several cave experts, had spent the past few days helping to locate the team, but rising and muddy waters that showed no signs of receding stymied efforts and blocked access to chambers of the cave. According to the Associated Press, rescuers drilled a hole into the side of the cave to try to drain the water, while others attempted to find alternative routes inside.
“There’s not much we can do right now. We have to wait for the water level to decline. [Divers] can’t do anything right now,” Interior Minister Anupong Paojinda said Thursday, the AP reported.
On Monday, however, a brief break in the weather allowed rescuers to go farther into the cave and kept water levels from rising, according to AFP. They had hoped to find the group, members of the Wild Boar soccer team, on an elevated ledge called Pattaya Beach, but that area also has been submerged. The group was found roughly 1,000 feet away, Narongsak told reporters.
The cave system is at least four miles long and waters can reach 16 feet during the rainy season, from June through October, Police Col. Kam Saardluan told the AP.
Fred Barbash contributed to this report.