Narongsak Osatanakorn, the Chiang Rai governor, broke the news of their rescue on Monday, delighting a nation which has anxiously followed every twist and turn of the dramatic effort to save them.
“We found them safe. But the operation isn’t over … We will take care of them until they can move,” Osottanakorn told reporters, who broke into spontaneous applause and cheering.
“We will bring food to them and a doctor who can dive. I am not sure they can eat as they have not eaten for a while.”
The rescue teams are making preparations for a final push to bring the team and their coach out of the cave.
Divers searching for the team had been hampered repeatedly by rising rainwater that filled sections of the cave and forced them to withdraw for safety reasons.
When water levels dropped on Sunday, the divers were able to move forward with a more methodical approach, deploying a rope line and extra oxygen supplies along the way.
Other efforts focused on finding shafts on the mountainside that might serve as a back door to the blocked-off areas where the missing team was thought to be sheltering.
Authorities also used helicopters to place heavy equipment such as backhoes and drilling machinery on the mountainside.
The boys aged 11-16, and their 25-year-old coach, reportedly entered the Tham Luang Nang Non cave in Chiang Rai province more than a week ago.
The Moo Pa Academy team’s belongings, including bicycles, backpacks and football cleats, were found just outside the entrance of the flooded cave complex in Chiang Rai’s Mae Sai district, where they had gone for a sightseeing trip.
Rising water had obstructed rescue operations and Royal Thai Navy SEAL divers struggled to move further into the cave complex, which is thought to be about 6-8km long and contains several large chambers.
More than 1,000 rescuers from several countries – including the US and China – also joined the search team.
The mothers and families of the missing boys have held prayer sessions at the entrance to the cave, where there is a shrine with a statue of the Buddha.
They laid flowers in the shrine and some walked inside to pray, their cries echoing off the walls of the cave.
Thailand is currently in the middle of a rainy season, which often causes floods in caves.