Rescuers have discovered all 12 boys and their soccer coach alive after nine days missing deep in a water-filled cave in northern Thailand.
The boys, aged 11 to 16, and their 25-year-old coach disappeared when flooding trapped them after they entered Tham Luang Nang Non cave on June 23.
Navy divers and rescue workers entered a narrow passageway early on Monday after passing through a key chamber on Sunday whose high, murky waters had previously blocked their progress.
“I confirm they are all safe,” Chiang Rai Governor Narongsak Osottanakorn told reporters on Tuesday morning (AEST).
Footage from the rescuers who reached the team was posted on the Thai Navy SEALS Facebook page showing the boys huddled together in a dry chamber of the cave, apparently in good condition.
Speaking in English, a rescuer tells the boys he is the first of many who will come to their aid and asks how many are still alive, before being told all 13 were safe.
One of the boys asks what day it is, while another tells the diver they are hungry.
Watch the first footage of the missing boys below:
Hooyah…..ทีมหมูป่าพบเยาวชนทีมหมูป่าบริเวณหาดทรายห่างจาก Pattaya beach 200 เมตร โดยนักดำน้ำหน่วยซีลดำน้ำวางไลน์เชือกนำทาง ร่วมกับนักดำน้ำจากประเทศอังกฤษ ระยะทางจากห้องโถง 3 ยาว 1,900 เมตร เมื่อเวลา 21.38 น. คืนวันที่ 2 กรกฎาคม 2561#ThainavySEAL
Posted by Thai NavySEAL on Monday, July 2, 2018
Mr Narongsak said rescuers had earlier managed to reach an elevated ledge known as Pattaya Beach where it was hoped the boys were sheltering, only to find it was also flooded.
The divers continued a further 300 to 400 meters where they located the boys.
“Our mission [is] not done yet,” Mr Narongsak was quoted as saying by CNN.
“We will drain all water out from the cave then we will take all 13 people out of the cave. We are now planning how to send nurse and doctor inside the cave to check their health and movement. We will work all night.”
Family and friends of the missing boys, who have maintained a vigil at the rescue base since they went missing, erupted in cheers as news of their discovery reached the surface.
Rescuers, including Australian Federal Police officers with cave diving experience and Thai Navy SEALS have been involved with the search over the last few days.
Mr Narongsak said the passageway was extremely narrow and forced divers to travel upwards in some places and downwards in others, making it difficult to fit through with all their gear.
They were repeatedly blocked by rising water that has filled sections of the cave and forced them to withdraw for safety reasons.
When water levels dropped on Sunday, the divers went forward with a more methodical approach, deploying a rope line and extra oxygen supplies along the way.
Mr Narongsak said it was expected that in their condition, the boys would at first not be able to move their limbs, but medical teams would initially treat them in place. He said the diving teams included doctors.
Thailand’s prime minister Prayuth Chan-ocha thanked the international experts who had helped in the search.
His office said the PM “wishes to thank the tremendous efforts of all international units that have come to assist the Thai authorities in rescuing the youth football team that was stuck in the caves in Chiang Rai”.
The Royal Thai Government and the Thai people are grateful for this support and co-operation, and we all wish the team a safe and speedy recovery”.