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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 15 December 2018

First images of rescued Thai boys in hospital released

The boys were sedated and carried out of the cave on stretchers

The first images emerge of the twelve Thai youth football players rescued from the Tham Luang cave in northern Thailand. Footage: Thailand Government Public Relations Department
The first images emerge of the twelve Thai youth football players rescued from the Tham Luang cave in northern Thailand. Footage: Thailand Government Public Relations Department

The first images of the rescued "Wild Boars" youth football team in hospital have been released by Thai authorities.

Sitting up and flashing a V sign to the camera, the boys appear in good spirits as they are attended to by nurses.

As a nation celebrates the success of an unlikely rescue operation to rescue the 12 "Wild Boars" and their coach from the Tham Luang cave in northern Thailand, details are emerging of the daring operation once dubbed "mission impossible".

At lease one of the boys was heavily sedated and passed out of the cave on stretchers, a Thai navy Seal footage shows.

One of the key fears of the rescue team is that the boys would panic while swimming out of the cave, causing problems with the breathing apparatus.

The footage, posted to the Thai navy Seal Facebook page shows a team of rescue workers transporting boys in a dark green stretcher covered by an emergency thermal blanket through the caves. One shot shows the stretcher harnessed to a rope attached to the ceiling of one of the caverns.

Military medical staff are shown attending to the boy.

A caption on the video reads "the operation that the world must remember...The operation the world never forgets."

Earlier, more details were released of the condition of the boys a nation rested their hopes on.

Now in Chiang Rai hospital, the boys are in good health despite losing an average of 2kg. They stayed hydrated drinking water dripping from the ceiling. Three of the boys have slight lung infections.

"From our assessment, they are in good condition and not stressed. The children were well taken care of in the cave. Most of the boys lost an average of 2kg," Thongchai Lertwilairattanapong, an inspector for Thailand's health department, told reporters.

At a press conference, reporters were shown the first footage of the boys and their coach in hospital. Waving at the cameras, the boys are resting in bed, wearing green protective masks, and being attended to by nurses. The boys show a customary sign of respect to the nurses, putting their hands together and bowing their heads.

Video of visibly emotional parents visiting the boys in hospitals was also shown. Footage shows a group of parents wearing yellow polo shirts, a colour connected to the Thai royal family, waving through the glass at their children.

The boys are currently in quarantine to reduce the risk of speaking infection, which also means most parents are unable to see their children.

Lab results for the first four boys came back today showing no sign of infection, meaning parents were allowed to visit wearing protective suits and standing two metres away.

The daring rescue of the boys lasted three days and required an international coalition of over one hundred workers. Official aid came from Britain, the United States, Japan, Laos, Myanmar, China and Australia, and volunteers from Denmark, Germany, Belgium, Canada, Ukraine and Finland were also there.

The commander of the Thai navy Seals hailed the international effort.

"We are not heroes. This mission was successful because of cooperation from everyone," Rear Admiral Apakorn Yuukongkaew said. "For SEALs, this is what we were trained for. The navy has a motto: 'We don't abandon the people'.”

The story of the "Wild Boars" also captured the attention of the footballing world. The team have invitations from Manchester United and the Spanish football league, La Liga to visit when they are well enough.

La Liga's president Javier Tebas said: "When the moment is right and everyone is ready I would like to invite the children and their coach to go to a Liga game.

"We would like to host them and share with them the happiness of football, hoping that this can go some way to helping them after everything they've been through in the last few weeks."

French footballer Paul Pogba dedicated his World Cup 1-0 victory over Belgium yesterday to the boys in a tweet shortly after the game.

Fifa, the world cup governing body, invited the children to watch the final in Moscow on July 15, although a senior doctor rule that the boys would not be well enough to attend the game. They will have to be in hospital for a week, and another 30 days monitored at home.

The boys went exploring in the caves in northern Thailand after football practise on June 23 when heavy rain flooded the entrance to the cave trapping them for 18 days. The boys were found by British rescue divers over a week later still wearing their football strips.