Updated at 5:15 p.m. ET
A dozen boys and their soccer coach were found alive inside a flooded cave in Thailand on Monday, nine days after they went missing.
A British diver participating in the international rescue mission appears on a video to be one of the first two divers to have reached the boys, who all seemed responsive and happy to be found.
The initial encounter was posted on the Thai Navy SEAL Facebook page. In it, the boys are barefoot, wearing red and blue soccer jerseys, and are huddled together on the side of a steep rock.
One of the first English phrases that can be heard is a chorus of “Thank you.”
The diver confirms that all 13 are still alive before a tall lanky boy asks if they will be getting out on Monday night.
“Not today,” the diver responds, adding several words of reassurance. “We are coming. … Many people are coming. We are the first,” and finally, “You are very strong.”
The diver also tells them more Navy SEALs will be arriving with food and medical supplies on Tuesday.
“We found them safe. But the operation isn’t over,” Chiang Rai Gov. Narongsak Osotthanakorn told The Associated Press. He said Thai navy SEALs had located all 13 people inside the cave system.
“When the medics have evaluated the kids to see if their health is in good condition, we will care for them until they have enough strength to move by themselves, and then we will evaluate the situation on bringing them out again later,” Narongsak said.
The news wire service spoke with Aisha Wiboonrungrueng, the mother of 11-year-old Chanin Wiboonrungrueng, who “said she would cook her son a Thai fried omelet, his favorite food, when he returns home.”
Hours earlier on Monday, rescue divers had been trying to get through a narrow passage in the Tham Luang Nang Non cave in Chiang Rai. Osotthanakorn said rescuers had managed to reach a three-way junction leading to where the boys were believed to be, according to The Bangkok Post.
“The divers from a Thai navy SEAL unit were within [1,600 feet] of a chamber containing an elevated rock mound, nicknamed ‘Pattaya Beach’ by cavers, which could have provided the boys with a refuge when heavy rains flooded the cave, blocking the way out,” Reuters reports.
“The Seal unit last night reached the T-junction and today they will press ahead to the left, but one obstacle we’ve found is a very small hole which we need to widen so that people can go through,” the governor said Monday.
The Thai Navy SEAL posted a picture of the rescue effort to its Facebook
The boys, reportedly ages 11 to 16, and their 25-year-old coach went missing on June 23. Heavy rains that flooded cave passages are thought to have trapped them. Their bicycles, backpacks and soccer shoes were found near the cave’s entrance.
Last week, a team from the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, including survival specialists, were flown in from Okinawa to help with the search.
Friends and family members of the missing had clung to hope that their loved ones would be found alive.
Thanakorn Ingsilapakul, 15, of Mae Sai Prasitsart school, where six of the missing boys attended, told Reuters he is “really worried,” about his classmate in the cave, “but I am hopeful because my friend is strong.”
Divers have been hampered by muddy water rising up in sections of the cave and forcing rescuers to withdraw over safety concerns, according to the AP reports.
On Sunday, “the divers went forward with a more methodical approach, deploying a rope line and extra oxygen supplies along the way,” the AP writes.
The Post reports:
“Above the cave, officials and volunteers were searching for shafts that might provide a back door into the cave. ‘We are exploring 11 potential shafts today. The deepest one is 200 metres [650 feet]. If it goes down through, we will be very lucky,’ the Chiang Rai governor said.
Meanwhile, the navy deployed 20 more [SEAL] divers to the site, increasing their numbers to 84.”
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