The successful international rescue of 12 boys and their football coach from a cave in northern Thailand brought an end to a gruelling 18-day ordeal that had captivated people worldwide.
With the announcement on Tuesday night that all of them had been safely extricated from the flooded tunnels, cheers erupted from the dozens of volunteers and journalists who had been camped for days near the entrance to underground labyrinth in Chiang Rai.
The last members of the group of 13 from the “Wild Boars” football team were taken by helicopter and then by road to a hospital about 45 miles) from the Tham Luang cave. They joined their team mates in quarantine there and will remain in hospital.
Thais reacted with relief, gratitude and exhilaration on Wednesday while the joy and relief was echoed around the globe by the multitude of people who had followed the saga.
The rescue dominated front page headlines in Thailand.
“All Wild Boars Saved,” read the headline on the front page of the Bangkok Post.
“Hooyah! Mission accomplished,” read The Nation’s front page headline, echoing the rallying cry of the Thai navy SEALs involved in the rescue.
The hashtag #Hooyah was also hugely popular with Thai netizens wanting to show their support for the hundreds of rescuers, including divers from around the world, who helped to get the boys out.
Rescue mission chief Narongsak Osottanakorn thanked people in Thailand and around the world at a news conference on Tuesday for their well wishes and support.
“This mission was successful because we had power. The power of love. Everybody sent it to the 13,” Narongsak told reporters.
The rescue was front page news in Australia, which had provided 20 personnel for the huge international operation.
Julie Bishop, Foreign Minister, said all the Australians involved would be in line for formal recognition of their actions.
“Clearly this has been an extraordinary team effort. We’ve been part of the Thai-led international effort,” she told ABC News.
She also singled out Dr Richard “Harry” Harris, who was the last person to leave the cave and who discovered his father had died shortly after emerging from the flooded tunnels.
“Dr Harris’s role has been quite extraordinary and I’m hoping that we’ll be in a position to thank all of our rescue team when they return to Australia.”
Several of the divers involved in the rescue were British and the rescue made it on to some of the front pages.
Theresa May, the Prime Minister, paid tribute to those involved in the rescue.
“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,” she said.
The drama in Thailand has even resonated as far as Russia, where the World Cup is reaching its final stages. Players from France and England welcomed news of the rescue and sent their best wishes to the “Wild Boars” on Twitter.
French midfielder Paul Pogba tweeted his delight at the rescue after his team beat Belgium 1-0 overnight to reach the final.
Manchester City and England defender Kyle Walker, whose team faces Croatia in the second semi-final later on Wednesday, said he wanted to send shirts to the boys.
FIFA boss Gianni Infantino had invited the boys’ Wild Boars football team to Sunday’s World Cup final last week.
But FIFA said it had been informed “that due to medical reasons, the boys will not be in a position to travel to Moscow”.
“FIFA’s priority remains the health of everyone involved in the operation and we will look into finding a new opportunity to invite the boys to a FIFA event to share with them a moment of communion and celebration,” a spokesman said.
Manchester United expressed its relief over the rescue and invited the boys and their coach, as well as those who saved them, to come see the team play on their home ground this season.
#MUFC is relieved to learn that the 12 footballers and their coach trapped in a cave in Thailand are now safe. Our thoughts and prayers are with those affected.
We would love to welcome the team from Wild Boars Football Club and their rescuers to Old Trafford this coming season. pic.twitter.com/5CGMoD1Msq
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) July 10, 2018
A Google search on Tuesday for the words “Thai cave rescue” revealed 359 million results, with interest peaking since last week when British divers found the boys and the rescue mission began.
Araya Hargate, one Thailand’s top actresses and a L’Oreal cosmetics brand ambassador, shared a cartoon of the boys surrounded by rescuers on her Instagram page, which has 7.9 million followers.
On Twitter and Instagram, well-wishers sent messages of support, advice and sketches of the boys in the cave using hashtags such as #Thaicaverescue #boarteam #Thainavyseals #PrayForThaiBoys and #Bringtheboarteambackhome.
A Thai navy SEAL Facebook post confirming all 13 had been rescued on Tuesday had more than 200,000 likes and around 56,000 shares in the space of an hour, sparking comments such as: “You are ALL HEROES! Thank you on behalf of a grateful world!” and “On behalf of all mothers I thank you”.