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Thailand

Thai boys lost 2kg each in cave ordeal, will need six months of psychological monitoring

Despite the positive health assessments so far experts said they would all need to be monitored closely for signs of psychological distress that could take months to manifest itself

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 11 July, 2018, 2:08pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 11 July, 2018, 7:45pm

The dramatic rescue of a dozen boys from a flooded Thailand cave ended a harrowing two-week ordeal that most seem to have weathered with astonishing mental and physical resilience – at least for the moment.

The 12 boys and their soccer coach lost an average of 2kg (4 pounds) but were generally in good condition and showed no signs of stress, a senior health official said on Wednesday.

Thais reacted with relief, gratitude and exhilaration after the last group of the “Wild Boars” soccer team was rescued from the Tham Luang cave, near the border with Myanmar, on Tuesday night, ending an ordeal that gripped Thailand and the world.

They were taken by helicopter to a hospital about 70km (45 miles) away to join their teammates in quarantine for the time being.

“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.

Parents of the first four boys freed on Sunday have been able to visit them but had to wear protective suits and stand 2 metres (7 feet) away as a precaution.

Thongchai said one from the last group rescued on Tuesday had a lung infection and they were all were given vaccinations for rabies and tetanus.

Despite the positive health assessments so far experts said they would all need to be monitored closely for signs of psychological distress that could take months to manifest itself.

“Their journey is not over yet,” said Jennifer Wild, a clinical psychologist at the Oxford Centre for Anxiety Disorders and Trauma.

“It’s possible after an ordeal such as this that similar cues will bring back feelings or memories from the trauma … being in the dark, being in rooms when the doors are closed, having a scan such as an MRI and possibly swimming,” Wild said via the expert database Science Media Centre.

“In the weeks after such an ordeal, it is common for people to have unwanted memories, feelings and flashbacks,” Wild said, adding that while such symptoms usually clear up after a month, any longer could indicate post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The boys are expected to spend a week in hospital in Chiang Rai and six months of psychological monitoring.

The group ventured into the vast cave complex in northern Thailand after soccer practice on June 23 and their rescue dominated front page headlines in Thailand.

Rescue mission chief Narongsak Osottanakorn thanked people in Thailand and from around the world soon after the final rescues were completed.

A senior Australian police officer acknowledged the degree of international cooperation “in a very unfriendly environment”.

“It is amazing what the human being can do. There are extraordinary people doing extraordinary things,” Glenn McEwan, the Australian Federal Police’s Asia manager, told reporters in Chiang Rai.

Audiences around the world cheered the team’s successful rescue after the saga generated messages of help, prayers and – finally – expressions of relief.

The drama in Thailand has even resonated as far as Russia, where soccer’s World Cup is reaching its final stages.

Players from France and England welcomed news of the rescue and sent their best wishes to the “Wild Boars” on Twitter.

“This victory goes to the heroes of the day, well done boys, you are so strong,” French midfielder Paul Pogba tweeted after his team beat Belgium 1-0 overnight to reach the final.

Manchester City and England defender Kyle Walker, whose team faces Croatia in the second semi-final later on Wednesday, said he wanted to send shirts to the boys.

“Amazing news that all of the Thai kids are out of the cave safely!” Walker tweeted.

A Google search on Tuesday for the words “Thai cave rescue” revealed 359 million results, with interest peaking since last week when British divers found the boys and the rescue mission began.

Araya Hargate, one of Thailand’s top actresses and a L’Oreal cosmetics brand ambassador, shared a cartoon of the boys surrounded by rescuers on her Instagram page, which has 7.9 million followers.

“After all … the world is not such a bad place #humanityfaithrestored #thailandcaverescue,” the actress, known in Thailand as “Chompoo”, wrote.

Reuters, Agence France-Presse