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Thai cave rescue nearly ended in disaster when pumps FAILED shortly after they were evacuated, sending 'screaming' divers scrambling to the exit as water levels quickly went up

Daily Mail logo Daily Mail 11/07/2018 Sarah D Malm

A group of Thai Navy divers are seen in the Tham Luang cave during rescue operations in Chiang Rai, Thailand © Getty A group of Thai Navy divers are seen in the Tham Luang cave during rescue operations in Chiang Rai, Thailand The miracle rescue of 12 football players and their coach from a flooded cave in Thailand could have ended in tragedy, when pumps draining the water failed shortly after the final boy was rescued.

Divers at the scene have revealed how they heard screaming from further inside the cave and saw rescue workers scrambling towards the entrance as the water levels suddenly rose.

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More on MSN:

How rescuers pulled off the daring mission (New York Times)

Calls for George Cross medal for hero British diver (Mirror)

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It came after the last remaining four school boys and their coach, who had been trapped in the Tham Luang cave complex for 18 days, were carried out on stretchers as the three-day operation came to an end.

'The screams started coming because the main pumps failed and the water started rising,' one of the divers told The Guardian.

Video - 'Mission accomplished': World cheers Thai rescue (Reuters)

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The diver and two Australian colleagues had been in the process of clearing out after the successful rescue operation on Tuesday when they suddenly saw 'a rush of head torches' as rescue workers ran for their lives.

a group of people standing around a motorcycle: Just about made it: Rescue workers are seen taking out the drainage system and machines after having to flee the cave when the main pump failed at the end of the operation © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Just about made it: Rescue workers are seen taking out the drainage system and machines after having to flee the cave when the main pump failed at the end of the operation Thankfully, they told the newspaper, the remaining 100 members of the rescue team were able to exit safely withing an hour, along with the Thai Navy SEALs and the army doctor who had been keeping the Wild Boar FC players company in the cave.

The Navy SEALs had been stayed with the group since they were discovered huddled together on a muddy ledge 2,620ft (800 metres) underground on July 2.

a group of people posing for a photo: Saved! All 12 players, pictured from top left clockwise, Adul Sam-on, 14, Panumas Saengdee, 13, Sompong Jaiwong, 13, Ekkarat Wongsookchan, 14, Pipat Bodhi, 15, Peerapat Sompiangjai, 16, Pornchai Kamluang, 16, Prajak Sutham, 14, Chanin Wiboonrungrueng, 11, Mongkol Boonpiam, 14, Nattawut 'Tle' Takamsai, 14 and Duangpetch Promthep, 13 © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Saved! All 12 players, pictured from top left clockwise, Adul Sam-on, 14, Panumas Saengdee, 13, Sompong Jaiwong, 13, Ekkarat Wongsookchan, 14, Pipat Bodhi, 15, Peerapat Sompiangjai, 16, Pornchai Kamluang, 16, Prajak Sutham, 14, Chanin Wiboonrungrueng, 11, Mongkol Boonpiam, 14, Nattawut 'Tle' Takamsai, 14 and Duangpetch Promthep, 13 The 12 football players, aged 11 to 16, and their coach had become trapped during a visit on June 23 when monsoon floods blocked the cave exit and forced them back three miles into the mountain.

They ended up stranded on a ledge, starving in the darkness, until they were found by a team of British divers over a week later.

a group of people standing on top of a mountain: Close call: Divers at the scene said the final boy had been rescued, but the Navy SEALS were still in the cave when the pump stopped working and the water levels rose © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Close call: Divers at the scene said the final boy had been rescued, but the Navy SEALS were still in the cave when the pump stopped working and the water levels rose The rescue operation which began on Sunday came into fruition after several days of frantic of planning and preparation.

Authorities had been mulling ideas such as drilling holes into the mountain or waiting months until monsoon rains ended and they could walk out, with the rescue chief at one point dubbing the efforts to save them 'Mission Impossible'.

a car engine: Failure: The giant water pump, which had been keeping the water levels down during the rescue, that failed at the end of the operation © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Failure: The giant water pump, which had been keeping the water levels down during the rescue, that failed at the end of the operation In the end, a team of specialist divers, lead by British experts and Thai Navy SEALs, entered the cave and 'effectively pulled' the boys through several miles of water-filled tunnels one by one - despite many of them not knowing how to swim.

The head of the Thai Navy SEALs said that 'hope had become reality' as the children started coming out of the cave one by one. 

a group of people on a stage: We're coming out: Soldiers take out machines after the 12 football players and their coach were rescued in Tham Luang cave complex on Tuesday evening © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited We're coming out: Soldiers take out machines after the 12 football players and their coach were rescued in Tham Luang cave complex on Tuesday evening 'We had a little bit of hope that they might still be alive but we had to do it, we just had to move forward,' Rear Adm Arpakorn Yuukongkaew told the BBC.

'There was only a tiny bit of hope, but that's all we had to work with.'

a group of people wearing military uniforms and holding wine glasses: We did it! The four Navy SEALs - three divers and one army medic - are seen giving the thumbs up after they emerged safely from the cave on Tuesday © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited We did it! The four Navy SEALs - three divers and one army medic - are seen giving the thumbs up after they emerged safely from the cave on Tuesday Four children were rescued on Sunday, another four on Monday, before the operation was completed yesterday. 

They are now all recovering in hospital, with some of them suffering a minor pneumonia and hypothermia, but are overall in good health, officials said today.  

a group of people standing in front of a crowd: Hooyah! Onlookers at the junction in front of Chiangrai Prachanukroh Hospital watch and cheer as ambulances transport the last rescued schoolboys and their coach from a helipad nearby to Chiangrai Prachanukroh Hospital © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Hooyah! Onlookers at the junction in front of Chiangrai Prachanukroh Hospital watch and cheer as ambulances transport the last rescued schoolboys and their coach from a helipad nearby to Chiangrai Prachanukroh Hospital

The 12 boys and coach 'took care of themselves well in the cave,' Thongchai Lertwilairatanapong, a public health inspector, said at a news conference at the hospital in Chiang Rai city where the group is recovering.

The four boys rescued Sunday can eat normal food and walk around, and the four pulled out Monday were eating soft food, with an average weight loss of 2kg (4.4lbs).

© Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Thongchai said one member of the final group of four boys and the coach who arrived at the hospital Tuesday evening had a slight lung infection.

Two of the first group had a lung infection as well, and Thongchai said they would need medicine for seven days. 

a group of people standing next to a person © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited The boys remain in isolation in the hospital to prevent infections by outsiders, but family members have seen at least some of the boys from behind a glass barrier.  

Despite not being able to meet them, parents, siblings, grandparents and other relatives have flocked to the Pranukroh Hospital in Chiang Rai to catch a glimpse of the children.

a group of people standing in front of a crowd: Rescued: A helicopter takes one of the boys rescued on Tuesday from the Tham Luang Cave near Mae Sai to hospital. Strapped to the stretcher, his head is held in a protective neck-brace and he is wearing sun-glasses shielding his eyes from the light © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Rescued: A helicopter takes one of the boys rescued on Tuesday from the Tham Luang Cave near Mae Sai to hospital. Strapped to the stretcher, his head is held in a protective neck-brace and he is wearing sun-glasses shielding his eyes from the light

The boys' parents kept a vigil at the jungle entrance of the Tham Luang cave praying that their darling would come out in one piece.

One of the families are preparing a birthday party for Peerapat Sompiangjai aka 'Nite' who turned 16 on the first day of the disaster.

'I may not be smiling on the outside but my heart is full of joy that we got our boy back alive,' his grandfather Sriwat Sompiangjal, 72, told MailOnline.

a group of people jumping in the air: Street party: Locals celebrate after the announcement that the evacuation is complete on Tuesday evening © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Street party: Locals celebrate after the announcement that the evacuation is complete on Tuesday evening 'The day the boys went missing was Nite's birthday. We were going to celebrate with him when he came back from the cave.

'We had prepared a nice meal and we had bought a birthday cake. But he never came home. 

'Finally we will be able to celebrate his 16th birthday.' 

a group of people posing for the camera: One team, one dream: Some of the players pose with coach Ekaphol Chantawong, 25, after a football game © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited One team, one dream: Some of the players pose with coach Ekaphol Chantawong, 25, after a football game As the children recover in hospital, plans of how to capitalise on their tale have already been put in motion.

Thai authorities are looking to clean up the caves, located in a scenic mountainous part of Chiang Rai, and turn it into a tourist attraction.

'In this crisis situation, today, I don't want to talk about work, but I think the Thai people, we are lucky that we are going to have a world-class tourist attraction,' Thailand's deputy head of national parks Chongklai Woraponsathron told a news conference yesterday. 

a group of football players posing for a photo: Message of support: The video promised that the 12 boys would be welcomed with 'a party for you all' and that they would be back with others playing for Wild Boar FC for football practice soon © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Message of support: The video promised that the 12 boys would be welcomed with 'a party for you all' and that they would be back with others playing for Wild Boar FC for football practice soon

Meanwhile, the story of the Wild Boar FC players and their coach getting trapped and rescued from the cave could be headed for a retelling by Hollywood. 

U.S. production company Pure Flix, which makes 'family friendly Christian films', arrived at the scene of the rescue before the operation was even completed to conduct interviews for a potential film.

Pure Flix co-founder Michael Scott, who lives in Thailand part of the year, and said he became captivated by the story while watching the news at his home in Bangkok. His wife grew up with the former Thai navy SEAL who died during the mission, he added.

Scott said he believes the international cooperation at the scene will help stoke interest in a movie about the effort.

'It's Thai, Westerners, Europeans, Aussies - people from all over the world who helped bring these kids to safety,' he said. 'I think there is a world wide appeal which I think will inspire millions across the globe.'

THE FREE WILD BOAR FC: WHO ARE THE 12 SCHOOL BOYS AND THEIR COACH RESCUED FROM CAVE

Eleven of the 12 boys who ended up trapped in a cave in Chiang Rai are all players in the same football team - except one teen who had his trial game on the day they went missing.  

Many of the boys, aged 11 to 16, have dreams of playing in Thailand's national football league, while some are also - according to their families - dedicated students.

Now that they have been rescued, they can hopefully look forward to visiting Manchester United's grounds and watch a Premiere League game once they have recovered.

THE BOYS 

Adul Sam-on, 14

© Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited a man smiling for the camera © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Born state-less in Myanmar, and raised by Christian teachers in Thailand, Adul Sam-on's unflinching politeness and startling ability to speak English is capturing hearts.  

Adul - who also speaks Thai, Burmese, and Chinese - is being praised for his English skills in a country where less than a third of the population speaks the language.

He was the only one able to communicate with the British divers that discovered the boys on July 2.

a group of people posing for the camera: Communicator: A thin Adul Sam-on is seen in footage broadcast around the world after the group were found by British divers © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Communicator: A thin Adul Sam-on is seen in footage broadcast around the world after the group were found by British divers 'What day is it?' he shouted, telling the divers they were hungry, in footage broadcast around the world after the agonising search for the boys.

Born in Myanmar's self-governing Wa State, he left his family behind aged seven to get a better education in northern Thailand, but his parents still visit him at the Christian Church where he's been taken in.   

With no birth certificate, no ID card and no passport, Adul cannot legally marry, get a job or bank account, travel, own property or vote, but he refuses to let his status hold him back.

The passionate footballer also loves to play the piano and guitar, and is an accomplished student too. 

Duangpetch Promthep, 13

a person holding a basketball © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Duangpetch, also known as Dom, is the team captain of Wild Boar FC and his family told local news he is the motivator of the group. 

His teammates told The Guardian that 'he has the qualities of a leader and a good sense of humour' and is such a talented footballer he has been asked to try out for the top local teams.

Mongkol Boonpiam, 14

a person in a green shirt © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Mongkol's father Thinnakorn said his son is a 'good boy' who loves to study - almost as much as he loves playing football.

He joined the Wild Boar FC team a year ago and on June 23, he had gone to Saturday practice like he has done many times before, and his family were long unaware of the trek to the cave.  

Ekkarat Wongsookchan, 14

Ekkarat is also known as 'Bew' and is one of Wild Boar FC's two goalkeepers © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Ekkarat is also known as 'Bew' and is one of Wild Boar FC's two goalkeepers Ekkarat is also known as 'Bew' and is one of Wild Boar FC's two goalkeepers.

Pipat Bodhi, 15

a man in a red shirt: Trial: Pipat Bodhi, 15, was looking at joining the team to spend time with Ekkarat © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Trial: Pipat Bodhi, 15, was looking at joining the team to spend time with Ekkarat Pipat is reportedly not a player for Wild Boar FC, but had joined the team for practice session before they embarked on their trek to the caves.  

He was hoping to be able to join the team so he could spend more time with goalkeeper Ekkarat, who is his best friend. 

Prajak Sutham, 14

a person posing for the camera © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited a close up of a person © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Prajak shares the role of goalkeeper with Ekkarat, and is called Note by friends and family.

A quiet but sport-loving boy, Note's medals are on display in the courtyard of the family's modest home in a village outside Mae Sai.

a man standing in front of a cake: Student: Prajak is seen aged 11, graduating from primary school © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Student: Prajak is seen aged 11, graduating from primary school He loved playing for the Wild Boar football team and wants to play for the provincial team when he is older.

Pictures of Note graduating from Kindergarten and primary school are displayed in pride of place in the family home, and his parents have kept a 24-hour vigil at the entrance of the Thamg Luang cave. 

Chanin Wiboonrungrueng, 11

a man standing in front of a store © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited a man holding a fish © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Chanin is also known as Titan, and is the youngest player on the team. He has been playing football for the past four years, according to the BBC. 

Despite being the youngest, he was reportedly one of those who remained in the cave the longest, being the 11th child brought out 

Pornchai Kamluang, 16

a man in a blue shirt © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited a man wearing a blue shirt © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Pornchai's mother Kian Kamluang said she had thought there was a 50 per cent chance that her son would be found.

'It's like he has been given a new life,' she said, adding that she'll never let her son go into a cave or near water again.

Peerapat Sompiangjai, 16

© Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited He is a right-wing midfielder, and known as Night, according to The Guardian.

Nattawut Takamsai, 14

a person taking a selfie: nattawut © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited nattawut The 14-year-old goes under the nickname Tle.

Panumas Saengdee, 13

a boy smiling for the camera: Panumas © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Panumas a person with collar shirt © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Known as Mick, defender Panumas was raised by his mother and grandfather, who has been left grief-stricken and refusing to eat since the team got lost in the caves. 

Speaking to The Guardian, his coaches praised his skills for his age and called him 'an ideal defender because of his fitness and fluid movement'. 

Sompong Jaiwong, 13  

a person posing for the camera © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Midfielder Sompong, known as Pong, supports England and dreams of becoming a footballer and representing his nation, according to his former teacher.

'Pong is a cheerful boy, he likes football, and every sport. He dreams of becoming a footballer for the Thai national team,' the teenager's teacher Manutsanun Kuntun told AFP, using his nickname.

a man wearing a suit and tie © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited 'Our class is still confident he will be OK,' she said.

Pong's family said he supports Liverpool, 'would love England to win' the World Cup in Russia and loves Three Lions captain Harry Kane.  

THE COACH

Ekkapol Chantawong, 25

a group of people standing next to a fence: The coach had reportedly been teaching the boys to meditate to help keep them calm in the cave © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited The coach had reportedly been teaching the boys to meditate to help keep them calm in the cave Ekkapol was just 12, when he lost his seven-year-old brother, mother and father as an illness spread though his home.

a man standing next to a body of water: Former monk Ekkapol Chantawong, 25, ended up trapped in the cave with his 12 young players © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Former monk Ekkapol Chantawong, 25, ended up trapped in the cave with his 12 young players His aunt said he was a 'sad and lonely' boy until he was sent a to Buddhist monastery where he gained mental strength.

a group of people posing for the camera: His aunt said he was a 'sad and lonely' boy until he was sent a Buddhist monastery where he gained mental strength. Pictured: The coach with his players © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited His aunt said he was a 'sad and lonely' boy until he was sent a Buddhist monastery where he gained mental strength. Pictured: The coach with his players When the group became trapped in the cave, he reportedly began teaching the children to meditate to help keep them calm during their ordeal.

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