Twelve Thai boys and their soccer coach rescued from a flooded cave in Thailand are recovering well from the ordeal and will be discharged from hospital next week, health minister Piyasakol Sakolsatayadorn said on Saturday.
The youngsters bowed their heads in respect to the courageous former navy diver and posed with a drawing of former Petty Officer Kunan at their hospital ward where they are being treated for malnutrition, pneumonia, ear infections and exhaustion.
Some of the group had lost as much as five kilograms but had regained some of the weight, and their appetites, in hospital, Piyasakol said.
Duangpetch Promtep, 13, said: "Thank you for all the moral support".
"Don't worry about me now, I'm safe", said 15-year-old Pipat Photi.
The young boys, ages 11 through to 16, and their coach had plans to explore the complex cave system for an hour or so following a soccer practice the team had engaged in on June 23.
A former Thai navy diver helping to rescue a football team trapped inside a flooded cave died July 6 as officials warned the window of opportunity to free the youngsters is "limited".
The rescue gripped the world, with much praise focusing on the navy SEALs and worldwide team of divers who helped them, toiling for days in risky conditions to get the boys out.
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The boy, who was trapped on a muddy ledge without food, added: "I want pork knuckle rice".
The "Wild Boars" youth football team and their coach were rescued from the Tham Luang cave last Tuesday, ending a perilous mission that involved rescue teams from various countries. The coach reportedly urged the boys to try to save their energy while they were trapped.
Asked if their actions might be seen as insensitive at such a delicate time, co-producer Adam Smith said: "There's going to be other production companies coming in so we have to act pretty quickly".
An Australian doctor who has been widely applauded for his involvement in the Thai cave rescue posted a heartfelt message to Facebook while on his way home, in which he emphasised the teamwork and efforts involved in the operation.
In order to rescue the boys, divers had to contend with a treacherous escape route made up of narrow, water-filled tunnels, with the threat of heavy rain injecting urgency to the bid.
Thai Navy SEAL paid tribute to the 37-year-old on Facebook on Saturday.
Two British divers found the boys and their coach on a ledge several kilometres inside the cave on Monday last week, nine days after they went missing.
Public Health Minister Dr Piyasakol Sakolsattayatorn says all 13 are set to leave the hospital next Thursday.