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Thailand cave: The successful search for lost boys

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On 23 June, 12 boys and their coach went to explore a cave after football practice in northern Thailand. Nine days later, all 13 have been found alive.

A huge rescue operation involving the Thai Navy and Air Force finally managed to find the group deep within the cave system.

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Shortly after the group's bikes were found abandoned at the entrance last month, heavy rain sent torrents of water through the cave.

Rescuers hoped that the boys aged 11 to 16 and their coach were alive deep inside the Tham Luang Nang Non cave. They hoped the group could find safety on a mound in an underground chamber, after being trapped by flood waters.

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A photo of one of the missing boys, Prachak Sutham, is shown on the phone of a Thai student, below.

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Thai Navy divers, along with four British cave divers and some US military personnel, worked hard to try to reach the deepest caverns of the Tham Luang Nang Non cave, the fourth longest in Thailand.

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British cave-diver Robert Charles Harper is seen exploring an opening in the mountain during the rescue operation, below.

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Industrial water pumps were used to reduce the water level inside the cave, but struggled against relentless rain.

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The entrance to the cave became flooded, with efforts shifted to finding other ways to access and reduce water in the cave, involving drilling through rock to drain water.

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Drones equipped with thermal cameras were used to detect possible access points and an underwater robot sent back information on the water depth and condition of the cave.

Sniffer dogs were also used after smelling clothing belonging to the missing children.

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On Monday, shortly before they were found, rescuers said they believed they were less than 1km (0.6 miles) from where the boys may be, but were blocked by a narrow tunnel.

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The group's plight gripped the country and led to an outpouring of support and hope, along with press attention.

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Hundreds of volunteers joined the military and police in the search operation.

Prayers and rituals took place for the missing group, including by a monk at an altar near the Tham Luang cave, below left.

A hermit was photographed performing a ritual beside the road leading to Tham Luang cave (below right).

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On Saturday, an ethnic Akha shaman was seen at Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park performing religious rituals to help the search, below.

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On Monday, ethnic Lisu tribespeople held a ritual involving a sacrificial chicken to appease the spirits of Tham Luang cave.

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Thai medical experts had said the group's survival depended on whether they can find fresh drinking water and they could survive for eight days without food.

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  • Thailand cave rescue: Boys found alive after nine days