Thai boys describe "miracle" cave rescue on release from hospital

The boys had no food and survived solely on water until rescue divers arrived

Thai boys describe "miracle" cave rescue on release from hospital

The 12 boys rescued from a flooded Thai cave show their respect and thanks to the retired Thai SEAL diver who died during their rescue attempt, 18-072018. Image: AP Photo/Vincent Thian

The 12 boys and their football coach who spent over two weeks trapped in a flooded Thai cave have been released from hospital.

Speaking at a major press conference, the Thai Wild Boars answered questions on their ordeal for the first time.

The group went missing in the Tham Luang cave in the north of the country on June 23rd, after flood waters trapped them within the cave complex.

After more than a week trapped in the darkness, the boys were finally located by a dive search team.

They were ultimately brought to safety one-by-one after a complex international rescue mission.

Discharged

A large crowd greeted the youngsters as they were discharged from hospital today and watched as they played football on a makeshift pitch.

After taking their seats, one of the boys explained that they used simple techniques to stay alive at the start.

He said: "Coach said 'stay still so that you use less energy; use the torch sparingly; anybody who has a torch keep and preserve the energy.'"

The boys had no food and survived solely on water until rescue divers arrived after nine days.

All the boys apologised to their parents for putting them through such a terrifying ordeal. They insisted that they had all agreed to enter the cave.

The aunt of coach Ekapol Chanthawong shows a picture of the coach and his grandmother on a mobile phone screen, 04-07-2018. Image:  Sakchai Lalit/AP/Press Association Images

Cave tour

The team's coach, 25-year-old Ekkaphon 'Ake' Chanthawong, said he had been to the cave before and took the boys to see it after training.

"There was a little bit of water so we went in, and I asked them if they wanted to go," he said.

"'If you want to go we have one hour and after that we have to immediately come out.

"Why one hour? Because we have to come out before 5pm."

Floodwaters

He said the group was headed back to the cave entrance when they realised they were trapped by rising floodwaters.

He said the boys could hear the water rising toward them as they moved back through the cave. they could not hear the rain outside and he told them to stay calm as the waters would go down tomorrow.

He said the boys all feel guilty over the death of Saman Kunan, the former Thai navy Seal who died while taking part in the rescue operation.

Rescue

One of the boys said he was shocked when he first realised a diver had come to rescue them.

"He asked me how I was and I said I was 'fine' - and they asked how many of you? and I responded that we have 13 people - and they said 'brilliant!'"

Another described the moment they were found as a "miracle."

None of the boys wanted to be among the first to leave the cave when rescuers originally asked for volunteers. Coach Ake said no one rushed to escape because "we were all so close to each other."

He said the boys now plan to be ordained as monks in tribute to Kunan.

Four members of the team, who are currently stateless, will now be granted Thai citizenship.

The boys all thanked their rescuers and the medical staff that has been caring for them and bowed before a portrait of the Thai King