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'Hooyah!': Elation as Thai cave rescue ends in success

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“Hooyah” was the rallying cry of a nation as the rescue of 12 boys and their football coach from the Tham Luang cave system in northern Thailand came to a joyous end.

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The Thai navy SEALs chant rang around the media centre opposite the site when news filtered through around 6.30pm local time on Tuesday that coach Ekapol Chanthawong, 25, was the last to be extracted from the cave after more than two weeks.

The chant also greeted the head of the rescue mission Narongsak Osottanakorn as he entered a press conference three hours later to the glow of local and international media spotlights.

“We did something no-one else thought was possible,” he said as he thanked the Thai and international rescue team.

He was momentarily interrupted with cries of “Hooyah! Hooyah!” by jubilant support staff.

“We are not sure if this is a miracle, a science, or what. All the 13 Wild Boars are now out of the cave,” Thai Navy SEALs posted on Facebook, referring to the football team name. “Everyone is safe.”

Narongsak also paid tribute to Lieutenant Smaan Kunan, the ex-navy SEAL diver who died during a mission last week while delivering oxygen in the cave, saying his sacrifice would be remembered.

The astonishing rescue story has gripped Thailand and the world since the group was discovered alive by two British cave divers on July 2, nine days after disappearing while exploring the cave system.

It was a “miracle” they had survived and an even greater one that the rescue team, including international caving experts, were able to hatch a plan to get them out alive.

Australia played a vital role in the rescue, sending 19 personnel including six military divers and Adelaide doctor and diver Richard Harris who on Saturday assessed the boys’ health and cleared the way for the daring operation to go ahead.

As the news spread of the success of the mission did the congratulatory messages from around the globe.

The UK’s Manchester United football team extended an invitation for the boys, their coach and their rescuers to visit their Old Trafford home ground.

Thai media celebrate after all 12 boys and their coach were evacuated from the cave. Photo: AP/Sakchai Lalit

German footballer Lukas-Podolski said the Wild Boars were his 2018 world champions. “And not just the boys and their coach, but to all the brave rescuers involved in this incredible mission,” he tweeted.

US President Donald Trump also tweeted his congratulations on the successful multinational rescue effort.

“On behalf of the United States, congratulations to the Thai Navy SEALs and all on the successful rescue of the 12 boys and their coach from the treacherous cave in Thailand. Such a beautiful moment – all freed, great job!”

UK Prime Minister Theresa May tweeted she was “delighted to see the successful rescue of those trapped in the caves in Thailand. The world was watching and will be saluting the bravery of all those involved.”

Thailand Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, who visited the site on Monday and also met the boy’s families, has promised a celebration dinner for all the rescuers.

– AAP

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