Thai football team found alive in cave after nine days

An ethnic Akha woman prays for the return of the missing members of an under-16 soccer team

An ethnic Akha woman prays for the return of the missing members of an under-16 soccer team

"Today we aim to have 600 air cylinders in the cave, so the team can operate and stay in the cave without coming out", he said. (Tham Luang Rescue Operation Center via AP) Rescuers make their way up at the entrance to a cave complex where 12 boys and their soccer coach went missing, in Mae Sai, Chiang Rai province, in northern Thailand, Monday, July 2, 2018.

Rescuers found their bicycles, football boots and backpack near the cave's opening, and spotted handprints and footprint further in - leading them to the spot they were eventually found. "We are the first", the rescuers reply.

The governor added that authorities are also trying to send food into the cave but were unsure if "they can eat it or not because it is nearly 10 days". "You are very strong".

"I can't express how I feel".

Surawan said another phase of the operation involves supplying the team with four months' worth of food and teaching the boys how to dive.

Reporting from Chiang Rai, Al Jazeera's Scott Heidler said "The families are very happy but they're very concerned now just how quickly these boys can come out". "And [Tuesday] morning we're going for an extraction plan".

Divers have been stymied repeatedly by rising water that has filled sections of the cave and forced them to withdraw for safety reasons.

Narongsak Osottanakorn, the governor of the Chiang Rai province told reporters late Monday: "We found all 13 safe. we will take care of them until they can move".

Bringing the trapped boys to safety is an extremely risky task given the conditions inside.

The group's health was assessed overnight by medical teams which will continue to check the health of the group on Monday, said Narongsak, explaining that the boys had sustained light injuries.

They would keep draining the cave while exploring the mountainside for other entrances as well.

"As rain is forecast in the next few days, the evacuation must speed up".

A USA cave rescue expert told AP news agency many challenges remained in the operation.

He said supplying them on site "may face challenges depending on how hard the dives are".

Anmar Mirza, US National Cave Rescue Commission co-ordinator, said: "Trying to take non-divers through a cave is one of the most unsafe situations possible, even if the dives are relatively easy". That also begets the question: "If the dives are hard then supply will be hard, but the risk of trying to dive them out is also exponentially greater".

Officials said they would attempt to train the boys to use crucial diving gear after they are rehabilitated with food, water and medical support.

"I really think we had reached the stage where people were saying "look we have to pray for a miracle, we have to hope for a miracle". "Because whenever he would leave home, he'd always ask for permission".

"They were smart to drink water in the cave", Sura told Reuters.

"The doctor advised that we should provide several kind of medicine to prevent infection and other illness", adding that medics had reached the young footballers.

But Arpakorn said even though the divers made some progress in their effort to find the missing, they're not yet where they want to be.

Aisha Wiboonrungrueng, the mother of 11-year-old Chanin Wiboonrungrueng, told AP news agency she would cook her son a Thai omelet upon his return.

Thousands of people have also used social media to celebrate with a hashtag that simply says: "13 Survived".

The two British rescuers are believed to be Rick Stanton and John Volanthen, who arrived in Thailand early last week.

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