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Thai Boys Rescued From Flooded Cave Make First Public Appearance

The 12 boys and their soccer coach who were rescued from a flooded cave arrive for a news conference in the northern province of Chiang Rai, Thailand, July 18, 2018.

Twelve members of a Thai youth football (soccer) team and their adult coach who survived a harrowing rescue from a cave appeared before the media Wednesday, appearing healthy as they entered a conference room in Chiang Rai province wearing their "Wild Boars" jerseys.

A week after their rescue from a flooded cave complex, the players emerged from vehicles, clasped their hands and bowed as an expression of gratitude to the well-wishers who gathered to see them.

Before entering the room to applause from classmates and media representatives, the players, dressed in black shorts and white and green jerseys, put on a quick demonstration of their soccer skills, drawing an explosion of applause from onlookers.

Team members, who range in age from 11 to 16, were discharged Wednesday morning from a hospital in the Chaing Rai province.

Doctors who treated the them said they were healthy despite being forced to survive on rain water alone for nine days. They remain worried, however, about any long-term psychological trauma from their confinement.

The doctors said the boys had lost an average of 4 kilograms during the more than two weeks they were trapped and have gained about an average of 3 kilograms since their rescue.

The saga began in late June, when the team failed to return home from practice. Their bikes and other items were found outside the Tham Luang cave complex, triggering a massive search that ended nine days later when rescue teams found the boys on a high ledge, trapped after the cave began filling with floodwaters.

A team of divers from Thailand and other nations began a desperate effort to pull the group out over three separate days last week, as heavy monsoon rains triggered new flooding inside the cave, sparking fears the boys and their coach would run out of oxygen in their tight space.

A former Thai Navy SEAL, Saman Gunan, died while placing spare air tanks along the escape route in preparation for the team's rescue. He ran out of air trying to swim out of the cave.

The team had been quarantined since their rescue to prevent them from contracting any kind of infection from their families.