Survived on rainwater, tried to dig way out: Thai cave boys recount ordeal
The boys’ friends gathered to greet them on the set for the broadcast, designed to resemble a soccer field, complete with goalposts, nets and scattered with black-and-white footballs, while benches stood on a dais for the boys to sit on.world Updated: Jul 18, 2018 20:06 IST
The 12 boys and their soccer coach rescued from a flooded cave in Thailand waved, smiled and offered traditional “wai” greetings in their first public appearance on Wednesday at a national broadcast in the northern province of Chiang Rai.
Doctors, relatives and friends, some in yellow traditional garb, greeted the boys, aged 11 to 16, and their 25-year-old coach, who wore T-shirts emblazoned with a red graphic of a wild boar and carried in footballs they kicked gently on the set.
“Bringing the Wild Boars Home,” read a banner in Thai on the set, designed to resemble a soccer field, complete with goalposts and nets, where the boys arrayed themselves on a dais, beside five members of the rescue team.
The boys, who became trapped deep in a flooded cave complex said they tried to dig their way out and survived on rainwater for nine days before being found and later rescued.
“We tried to dig out as we thought we cannot only wait for authorities to get us,” coach Ekkapol Chantawong told a press conference Wednesday as the Wild Boars team made their first public appearance since being saved.
One of the team members said they “drank water that fell from the rocks” before being found by two British divers nine days after going inside the cave on June 23.
“It is a miracle,” Wild Boars footballer Adul Sam-on, 14, said of the rescue, as the boys were gently quizzed about their terrifying experience.
Doctors said all 13 rescued were in good physical and mental health after recuperating in hospital.
The briefing was tightly controlled, with experts warning of possible long-term distress from the more than two weeks they spent trapped inside a cramped, flooded chamber of the Tham Luang cave in northern Thailand.
The public relations department in Chiang Rai solicited questions from news outlets in advance, which were forwarded to psychiatrists for screening.
Thailand’s junta leader Prayut Chan-O-Cha urged media Wednesday to be “cautious in asking unimportant questions” that could cause unspecified damage.
Interest in the saga has been intense, with film production houses already eyeing a Hollywood treatment of the drama.
Doctors have advised families of the players, aged 11 to 16, that they should avoid letting them contact journalists for at least one month.
‘Happiest day of my life’
Families of the youngsters have eagerly awaited their homecoming.
Khameuy Promthep, the grandmother of 13-year-old Dom, one of the boys rescued from the cave, told AFP in an interview at their family shop in Mae Sai near the Myanmar border on Wednesday that she was very excited.
“This is the happiest day of my life,” she said.
The daring Thai-led international effort to rescue the team captivated the world after the football team walked into the cave on June 23 and were trapped by rising floodwaters.
After nine days without food, they were found emaciated and huddled in a group on a muddy ledge by British divers several kilometres inside Tham Luang.
Rescuers debated on the best plan to bring them out but ultimately decided on a risky operation that involved diving them through waterlogged passages while they were sedated to keep them calm and carrying them out in military-grade stretchers.
Not even the foreign cave diving specialists who took part were sure the mission would work and many expressed relief when it was all over after the final five were rescued on July 10.
Further attention was drawn to the rescue by a highly public spat between entrepreneur Elon Musk and a British caver who took part in the rescue.
Tesla CEO Musk called Vernon Unsworth a “pedo” in an extraordinary social media attack, after the caving expert had ridiculed Musk’s plan to recover the trapped group using a miniature submarine.
Musk on Wednesday apologised to Unsworth over the slur, for which he had provided no justification or explanation.
“(H)is actions against me do not justify my actions against him, and for that I apologize to Mr. Unsworth and to the companies I represent as leader,” Musk wrote on Twitter. “The fault is mine and mine alone.”
Musk’s attack on Unsworth had drawn widespread outrage and briefly sent shares in Tesla tumbling. Unsworth told AFP he may take legal action against Musk over the offensive tweet.
First Published: Jul 18, 2018 16:54 IST