TCHIANG RAI, July 11 (AFP): Thailand celebrated the successful mission to free 12 boys and their football coach from a cave on Wednesday, with the nation heaping praise on the rescue team as the triumphant tagline "Hooyah" pinballed across social media.
The nerve-shredding three-day mission ended on Tuesday with the final group of four boys and the coach emerging from the cave which had held them captive for 18 days.
The rescue received blanket coverage in Thai media with newspapers The Nation running the headline "Hooyah! Mission accomplished" and the Bangkok Post emblazoned with "All Wild Boars saved".
Despite spending days in the dark, dank cave health officials said the boys - who are aged 11 to 16 - are in good physical and mental health and eating normal food.
"It might be because they were all together as a team, helping each other out," public health ministry inspector general Thongchai Lertwilairatanapong told reporters, singling out their 25-year-old coach for keeping their spirits high.
The group remain in quarantine in Chiang Rai hospital where one of the last batch of people to leave the cave has "minor pneumonia", he said.
Some of the first boys to be freed have been able to see their parents, he added.
The saga of the "Wild Boars" gripped the world, with the lives of the group hanging in the balance as the threat of heavy rain injected urgency to an already perilous extraction bid.
On Wednesday a few hundred Thai school children gathered opposite the hospital, chanting thanks to those who helped and looking up at the building that will be home to the rescued football team for the coming days.
Elsewhere Duangduen Sittiwongsa, a classmate of 16-year-old Pheeraphat "Night" Sompiengjai, whose birthday fell on the same day the team entered the cave, said they would give him cake and gifts when he came back to school.
"We will sing a song for him," she said.
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