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World

Ordeal Is Far From Over For Thai Boys Found Alive In Cave

NOEL KING, HOST:

All right, we're getting go now to Thailand, where 12 boys and their soccer coach have been found alive inside of a flooded cave. They'd been missing for more than a week. And there is enormous relief that they've been found. But now there are enormous logistical challenges to getting them out of the cave. Volunteers, including some from abroad, have joined the effort. And as Michael Sullivan reports, the extra help has been useful.

MICHAEL SULLIVAN, BYLINE: As dramatic rescues go, it doesn't get much better than this, two British divers, discovering the boys and their coach late Monday night more than a mile up the cave in a video posted on the Thai navy SEALs Facebook page.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO)

UNIDENTIFIED DIVER: How many of you?

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: (Unintelligible)

UNIDENTIFIED DIVER: Thirteen?

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED DIVER: Brilliant.

SULLIVAN: One of the first questions the boys asked the divers was, when can we leave?

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO)

UNIDENTIFIED DIVER: Not today, not today.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Not today?

UNIDENTIFIED DIVER: There's two of us. You have to dive. Many people are coming - many, many people. We are the first. Many people come. You are very strong. You're very strong.

SULLIVAN: They will need to stay strong because their ordeal is far from over. Even though Chiang Rai's governor says the boys are in relatively good shape, they must now prepare for the journey down the treacherous labyrinth of the cave complex, parts of which remain submerged, before they can reach safety. Officials today were trying to figure out the best way to do that. The two most frequently mentioned options are teaching them to use diving gear fast or wait until after water levels in the cave subside. But that could take months.

(SOUNDBITE OF WATER PUMPING)

SULLIVAN: In the meantime, authorities are pumping water out of the cave as fast as they can. It's been raining nearly nonstop since the rescue effort began, flooding the cave and slowing the rescue effort. But the rain eased enough on Sunday and Monday to allow the divers to finally reach the missing team. Their plight has gripped the nation. Social media flooded with posts offering prayers for the boys' safe return. Some of their parents, waiting outside the cave, wept when they heard the boys were safe. And the boys themselves, despite their situation, politely offered their thanks to the divers who found them in the dark far from home but safe for now.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: I am really happy.

UNIDENTIFIED DIVER: We are happy, too.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #4: Yes. Thank you so much.

SULLIVAN: For NPR News, I'm Michael Sullivan at the Tham Luang Cave complex, Chiang Rai, Thailand.

(SOUNDBITE OF PHILANTHROPE'S "SILENCE (FEAT. KUPLA)") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.