Mae Sai, Thailand, July 10: As the last ambulances waited a muddy pathway flanked by lush fields, Thai navy officials confirmed Tuesday that every member of a youth soccer team – 12 boys and their 25-year-old coach – had been extracted from the flooded cave where they have been marooned for more than two weeks.
The jubilant news capped a dramatic search and treacherous three-day rescue mission that captivated the world.
“12 Wild Boars and coach out of the cave. Everyone safe,” the Thai Navy SEALs posted on their Facebook page, referring to the name of the soccer club.
The story of the boys and their novice monk-turned-soccer coach from this small town on the Thai-Myanmar border – remarkably found alive nine days after they went missing June 23 – launched an international rescue effort and intricate planning on how to maneuver all 13 safely through the narrow passageways and ink-black waters.
British, Australian, Chinese and Thai divers led them out, one tethered to each boy and one following from behind. An Australian doctor stationed in the cave has kept a lookout for days, and was among the last to be extracted.
International experts set up rescue communications, while Thai villagers flocked to a muddy rescue site to set up food stalls and massage stations.
The missions were also a race against the weather.
Rescuers had spent days balancing the risk of impending monsoons, which could have flooded the cave once again, and the team’s readiness to embark on the journey out, physically weakened by their ordeal.
The hint of setting sun and blue skies broke through the heavy clouds behind the caves as a helicopter whirred through the sky, carrying the last of the team south to a hospital in nearby Chiang Rai. Thai navy SEALs and a medic who had been stationed with the boys for days, preparing them for their dive, were brought out of the cave soon after.
On Sunday, officials decided they could no longer wait, as conditions were “as perfect as they will be.” Over the next three days, the boys were brought out in groups; four on the first day, four on the second and five on Tuesday.
The boys and the coach were found more than a week after they became stuck on a small, muddy patch deep in the cave’s network of chambers. The world has been rooting for them since, especially after warnings from experts about how much could go wrong in the process of bringing out the young boys, who cannot swim and were weakened by their long ordeal.
Their supporters have included world leaders, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and billionaire inventor Elon Musk, who tasked his team of engineers to build a “kid-sized submarine” made out of rocket parts that will be able to move the young boys through the cave’s narrow passageways. On Monday night, Musk posted on Twitter that he had “just returned’ from the still-flooded cave, with photos of the rescue site where a team of swelling international experts have been working around the clock since the team was found.
“Leaving here in case it may be useful in the future,” he wrote, referring to the “mini-sub” which he has named after the team, the Wild Boars. In an Instagram video, he posted his journey through the pitch-black flooded cave, lit only by a few torch-lights.
Speaking to reporters after the news conference, Narongsak said that while Musk’s technology was “good and sophisticated,” it was “not practical for the mission.”
Doctors attending to the eight boys who have been rescued from the cave in two groups of four on Sunday and Monday say they are generally in good health – an incredible result for the boys who have spent nine days incommunicado, without food, until they were found, and then waited days more before embarking on an hours-long dive that even the most skilled cave divers have described as among the most dangerous they have attempted.
A retired Thai navy SEAL died Friday after he ran out of oxygen while placing compressed-air tanks along the exit route.
“Doctors have treated the boys and now all of them are okay and cheerful, and are talking normally,” said Jesada Chokedamrongsuk, from the Thai Ministry of Public Health. One of the boys initially had a heartbeat that was too slow, and some had low white blood cell counts, but they have since been stabilized. Two have been treated for minor lung infections, doctors added. They were all treated for rabies, in case of bats in the cave, and tetanus, and set up with IV drips.
None of them have fevers, and all are able to eat normal “medical” food, the doctor said, an improvement from the watered-down porridge they were fed when they were first rescued. A nutritionist is monitoring their diet and has recommended that they eat nothing spicy or salty – despite the boys’ cravings for spicy basil pork and rice, and grilled pork.
By Monday evening, the boys were able to joke, laugh, and have normal conversation, doctors said. They are still quarantined away from their parents, who have been able to see them through a glass window but not touch or hug them. The boys, however, were visited Monday evening by Thai junta leader and Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, who was kept about two meters away from the boys.
ASI among three cops injured in Rajbagh grenade blast
Srinagar, Jan 17: Assistant Sub-Inspector (ASI) of police and two traffic cop were injured in a grenade blast near Zero Bridge in Rajbagh area of Srinagar city in Central Kashmir on Thursday afternoon.
Reports said that suspected militants lobbed a grenade on police party near Zero Bridge in Rajbagh.
In the blast, three policemen including an ASI of police and two traffic policemen sustained splinter injuries and were evacuated to SMHS hospital for treatment.
The injured has been identified as Iqbal Singh (ASI of JKAP 14 Bn) and traffic policemen Haris Manzoor (SPO) and Sanullah (Head Constable).
While ASI Iqbal has sustained splinter injuries to both of his legs, Haris suffered an injury to the back side of his neck and Sanullah suffered injuries in his right leg.
SSP Srinagar Imtiaz Ismail Parray confirmed the attack and subsequent injuries to the ASI and two traffic cops.
Soon after the attack, the government forces cordoned off the area and launched a hunt to nab the attackers.
Security forces have launched a massive search operation in Rajbagh and adjoining areas near Zero Bridge after three police personnel including assistant sub-inspector were injured in a grenade attack by the terrorists on Thursday.
Homes and hotels in the area were searched frisking was also carried out. It was the first major terrorist attack in the Srinagar city this year. The injured cops are undergoing treatment at the hospital.
Meanwhile Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) has claimed responsibly of the grenade attack on the forces’ party at Raj Bagh area of Srinagar.
A JeM spokesperson Muhammad Hassan in a statement claimed that two forces personnel were killed and 6 critically injured in the attack.
An ASI of police and two traffic cops were injured in a grenade blast near Zero Bridge, Raj Bagh in Thursday afternoon.
2018 has been remarkable year for forces: Army commander
Srinagar, Jan 17: A top army commander on Thursday described 2018 as “remarkable year” for government forces, saying that more than 250 militants were killed, 54 others were arrested and four others surrendered in Kashmir Valley.
“The year 2018 has been a remarkable year for armed forces on the security front. As per the record of last ten years, army along with other forces have neutralized many militants. Many militants have surrendered under pressure and many others were arrested alive,” said Lt Gen Ranbir Singh, GoC-in-C Northern Command told reporters after inaugurating Kalai Bridge constructed by Border Roads Organization.
“More than 250 militants were killed, 54 others arrested and four others have surrendered,” he said, adding, “This speaks about the strength of our security establishment,” the officer said.
He said that the army was giving “befitting reply” to Pakistan army along the Line of Control whenever there were instances of any ceasefire violation or snipping.
“As per wireless and other intercepts, Pakistan army and militants suffered a huge loss in our retaliatory action.”
The Kalai Bridge spans over Suran River and connects Kalai area to Chandak area in Poonch district. During the inaugural function, the Army Commander addressed the gathering of Army, GREF and local residents and said that the Kalai bridge is an important milestone towards enhancing the road communication in the area.
“The bridge is an important strategic asset as it enhances the movement of military equipment and troops in a faster time frame,” he said. The Indian Army and BRO have been working towards infrastructure development in the remote and far-flung areas and improving the road connectivity, he said.
“The bridge will reduce traffic congestion in the city and ease out inconvenience caused to the people specially those moving towards Budha Amarnath Shrine in Mandi as it reduces the travelling time considerably.”
The Army Commander appreciated the contribution of the District Administration for their support and cooperation during the construction of the bridge.
Beg to differ: Omar Abdullah
Srinagar, Jan 17: Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister and National Conference (NC) vice-president Omar Abdullah on Thursday lashed out at the Northern Command Chief Lt General Ranbir Singh, on his “great year for security forces” remark.
Taking to Twitter, Abdullah wrote, the compulsion of killing militants/terrorists shouldn’t be treated as a cause for celebration.
“I beg to differ, a great year would be one in which no young man would join militancy, no terrorists would be killed & no security personnel would lose their lives in encounters. The compulsion of killing militants/terrorists shouldn’t be treated as a cause for celebration,” Abdullah wrote.
Abdullah was reacting to a statement by Gen Singh on the sidelines of the inauguration of the Kalai bridge in Poonch district. Gen Singh said 2018 had been a great year for the security forces as they had managed to kill 250 terrorists.
Heartening to meet Kashmiri students in Bangladesh: Shahid Afridi
Srinagar, Jan 17: Star Pakistan cricketer Shahid Afridi on Thursday met Kashmiri students in Bangladesh and interacted with them.
Afridi said that it was heartening to see Kashmiri students in Bangladesh who are studying medicine.“Heartening meeting with some Kashmiri students who are in Bangladesh on scholarship, studying Medicine. Keep up the hard work and making your people proud!,” he tweeted.
Afridi in the past has been in controversies over Kashmiri over his support to the Kashmir cause. He has been vocal about letting the people of Kashmir decide their future.