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The water pumps failed, and Commander Chaiyananta Peeranarong heard shouts of alarm as the final stage of an unprecedented operation to rescue 12 Thai boys and their coach from a flooded cave nearly tipped into disaster.

Just before 1pm United Kingdom time, it was announced that all 12 boys and their coach were safe. It lies under the mountains around the small town of Mae Sai, in northern Chiang Rai province on the border with Myanmar.

Hospital director Chaiwetch Thanapaisal said: 'There's no need to worry about their physical or mental health.

The eight young footballers rescued from a cave in Thailand after more than two weeks underground are unlikely to be able to take up an offer to attend the World Cup final in Moscow, doctors said yesterday.

Thailand's navy SEALs, who played a central part in the rescue effort, wrote on their Facebook page: "We are not sure if this is a miracle, a science, or what". Three have slight lung infections.

Anderson said divers practised their rescue techniques in a swimming pool with local children about the same height and weight as the members of the Wild Boars football team trapped in the cave. "The coach was the one to choose", he said. They were found by a pair of British divers almost 10 days later, huddled on a small, dry shelf just above the water, smiling with relief but visibly skinny.

The head of a Thai navy SEAL diving team that helped lead 12 boys and their soccer coach through a flooded cave complex to safety urged the boys on Thursday to "be a force for good" as the dramatic operation wound to a close.

Highlighting the dangers, Saman Kunan, a former Thai navy diver volunteering to work on the rescue, died on Friday while replenishing oxygen canisters. He lauded the cooperation between Thai and worldwide rescuers.

Prime minister Prayuth Chan-ocha has thanked people involved in the rescue, saying the government's efforts, the assistance of people in Thailand and overseas, and the outpouring of moral support made the mission a success.

Without him, "this mission may not have succeeded", the Thai rescue chief Narongsak Osottanakorn told reporters late on Wednesday.

Each of the boys, with no diving experience, was guided out by divers though rocky, muddy and water-filled passages that in places were just a crawl space.

The method was extremely risky, but dwindling oxygen levels in the cave and fears of more monsoon rains to come made a decision urgent. "FIFA's priority remains the health of everyone involved in the operation and we will look into finding a new opportunity to invite the boys to a Federation Internationale de Football Association event to share with them a moment of communion and celebration". Before their discovery, they survived by drinking water dripping into their cramped refuge.

But Mr Chaiyananta, whose job was to help transfer the kids along between chambers two and three, said they were all "sleeping" on the harrowing journey out. "This mission was successful because of cooperation from everyone", he said.

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