MAE SAI — A day-by-day look at the ordeal of 12 boys and their soccer coach, who were trapped deep inside a flooded cave in northern Thailand for more than two weeks:
After a morning practice, 12 members of the local Wild Boars youth soccer team bicycle with their 25-year-old coach to the Tham Luang Nang Non cave to explore, when heavy rains begin. When none of the boys return home after dark and cannot be contacted, parents report them as missing. Their bicycles are found parked and locked at the cave entrance as a search begins at about midnight.
Search and rescue teams comprising local authorities, police and rescue workers find soccer shoes and backpacks left behind by the boys near the cave entrance.
Thai navy SEALs join the search effort. As the search expands, handprints and footprints thought to belong to the boys are found farther from the cave entrance. Parents holding a vigil outside begin prayer sessions.
As the searchers penetrate the cave, Interior Minister Anupong Paojinda tells reporters they are seriously handicapped by muddy water that has filled some chambers of the large cave to their ceilings.
More heavy rainfall stymies search efforts, flooding underground passages faster than water can be pumped out. A U.S. military team and British cave experts, along with several other private teams of foreign cavers, join the operation.
Efforts begin to drain groundwater from the cave by drilling from outside into the mountain. A search for other entrances to the cave intensifies as diving is temporarily suspended for safety reasons.
Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha visits the cave site and urges relatives of the missing not to give up hope. Efforts to drain the cave with pumps make little progress.
The effort to locate the missing picks up pace again, as a break in the rain eases flooding in the system of caverns and more experts from around the world, including Australia and China, join the rescue mission. In anticipation of finding the boys, an evacuation drill is held to practice how they will be sent to a hospital after leaving the cave.
Rescue divers advance into the main passageway inside the flooded cave and set up a staging area inside. Thai navy SEALs reach a bend where the kilometer- (half-mile-) long passage splits in two directions.
Two expert British cave divers locate the missing boys and their coach. They record a video of the boys talking with them.
Thai navy SEALs bring in food and medicine. Videos are released and show the boys taking turns introducing themselves, folding their hands together to wai and saying their names. The boys also say they are healthy.
A total of seven navy SEALs and a doctor are now in place to stay with the boys. Options are discussed about whether the boys should be taken out of the cave with divers soon or kept in place until conditions improve.
The boys continue with diving lessons in case a decision is made to extract them through a route that is partially underwater. The effort to pump out water in increased.
Officials indicate that they favor extracting the boys as soon as possible, fearing further danger if they are forced to stay inside by more rain causing additional flooding. Concern increases about falling oxygen levels inside the cave. A former navy SEAL aiding the rescue effort dies from a lack of oxygen during his mission.
Letters that the boys and their coach wrote to the boys’ parents are made public. Officials suggest that an underwater evacuation will be made in the following few days because of predictions of a rainstorm. However, they say the boys’ diving skills are not yet where they need to be.
The official heading the rescue operation declares that “D-Day” has arrived as he announces the start of the operation to bring the boys and their coach out of the cave. Divers take four of the boys out through tight passages and flooded caverns.
Divers take four more boys to safety during the second day of the rescue operation. This leaves four boys and their coach still inside the cave.
On the third day of the rescue operation, divers bring out the remaining four boys and their coach, ending an ordeal that lasted more than two weeks.