Thai soccer coach starved himself to keep his team alive

One of the giant pumps failed after the last of the boys had been rescued causing water levels in the caves to rise dangerously fast

On Wednesday video showed the boys recuperating in an isolation ward in hospital, chatting to each other and making two-finger victory signs while their parents waved to them through a glass window.

Messages were sent to the Thai boys following the Thai cave rescue.

It also involved about 90 divers in all, 50 of them from overseas, as well as medics, ambulance drivers, and helicopter pilots to take the boys straight to hospital in the town of Chiang Rai.

But heavy rains trapped the team inside for 17 days.

A large rescue operation got under way on Sunday, with divers extracting the team in batches of four and five over the course of three days.

But Thai authorities have been coy on how a group of boys, many of whom could not swim and none with diving experience, could have navigated the treacherous narrow and submerged passageways of the Tham Luang complex, even with expert diving support.

Bicycles belonging to members of a children's football team, who are trapped in a cave chamber along with their coach, are seen as Thai rescue personnel (background) conduct operations under floodlights at the entrance to Tham Luang cave.

Wet and cold, some of the boys fell asleep as they were hauled along to the exit, but there were more than 100 people stationed along this section, including nurses who checked their temperature, blood pressure, pulse and oxygen levels.

At another, they watch on as a stretcher hangs from a rope on a pulley system above their heads.

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Thailand's junta chief told reporters on Tuesday that the group had been given a "minor tranquiliser" to help calm their nerves.

To get through flooded areas, the children were strapped to a rescue diver and guided through.

Thailand spent yesterday celebrating the successful mission. The boys range in age from 11 to 16. "Most of the boys lost an average of 2 kg", Thongchai Lertwilairattanapong, an inspector for Thailand's health department, told reporters.

The world held its breath over the three days it took to retrieve the Wild Boars.

Chaiwetch Thanapaisal is director of Chiang Rai Prachanukroh Hospital. "I'm going to give them a hug", he said.

"On behalf of the operation unit, we want to send our condolences to him and I do have to thank him a lot", he said.

Rescuers had weighed up several options to save the boys, including keeping them in the cave through the months-long monsoon season.

But they were prodded into the risky task of bringing the team through submerged chambers and claustrophobic passages as oxygen levels in the cave plummeted and rains menaced.

While only a little information is known about the players' backgrounds, The New York Times reported that Sam-on, the teen who served as an interpreter for British rescue divers who found the team, was brought to Thailand at 6 years old to escape the danger in Myanmar.

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