Jim McMahon/Mapman®

This summer, people around the world turned their attention to Thailand, a country in Asia. Twelve members of a youth soccer team and their coach had been trapped inside a flooded cave there for more than a week. Rescue teams weren’t sure if they’d ever find the kids, let alone get them out alive.

The ordeal began on June 23. The boys and their coach went hiking in a cave called Tham Luang (tahm loo-ong). Suddenly, a storm struck and the tunnels quickly flooded. The team’s escape route was cut off. They were forced to go farther in to find a ledge where they would be safe from the rising waters.

But the water level never went down enough for them to escape. For 10 days, the team waited in the dark cave without any food. The coach and players survived by drinking water that trickled down the walls of the cave. 

Meanwhile, hours after the boys went missing, search teams found their bikes at the cave’s entrance. Rescuers searched the cave for days. On July 2, divers finally located the team. They could not believe they had found the players and their coach alive.

“It was a miracle,” 14-year-old Adul Sam-on, one of the stranded players, later told reporters.

Next came the hardest part—getting the team out safely and quickly. Oxygen levels in the cave were falling, making it hard to breathe. Divers would have to lead the boys through a dark, cold underwater maze (see “An Inside Look”). Some of the tunnels were only 2 feet wide. One diver died in the cave while delivering oxygen tanks for the rescue mission. 

On July 8, divers began leading one boy at a time out of the cave. Each rescue took several hours. By July 10, the entire team and their coach had been rescued.

The players spent a week in the hospital. They are all healthy now and grateful to their rescuers.