Twelve members of a boys’ soccer team in Thailand and their coach have been found alive nine days after the group was trapped in a cave in the northern part of the country.
The governor of Chiang Rai province, Narongsak Osatanakorn, said that all 13 were found safe at about 10:30 pm local time Monday.
The team was found about 396 metres away (1,300 feet) from an elevated area inside the sprawling cave, Thai News Agency reported. 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.
The next step would be to check on the team members’ health condition, Narongsak told reporters.
“We will take care of them until they can move,” Narongsak told reporters, who applauded at the news, according to Agency 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 they’re 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.
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 foreign rescuers, including a team of Navy divers and several cave experts, had spent the past few days helping to locate the team, but rising and muddy waters showing no signs of receding have 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 on Thursday, the AP reported.
On Monday, however, a brief break in the weather allowed rescuers to go further into the cave and keep water levels from rising, according to AFP.
They had hoped to find the group, known as the Wild Boar soccer team, on an elevated ledge called Pattaya beach, but that area has also been submerged. The group was found roughly 300 metres away (1,000 feet), Narongsak told reporters.
The cave system is at least four miles long and waters can reach 5 metres (16 feet) during the rainy season, from June through October, Police Col. Kam Saardluan told the AP.
VIDEO: Classmates of 12 boys trapped in a flooded cave in northern Thailand speak of their hopes for a miracle rescue, as divers inched through mud and water towards an air pocket where the group is believed to be. #ThamLuang pic.twitter.com/xrCrIE2Ykj
— AFP news agency (@AFP) July 2, 2018
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