We're over the moon. Ecstatic! British diver on Thai cave rescue

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Prayuth Jetiyanukarn, abbot at Phrathat Doi Wao temple, where the coach worked, said the coach had a strong bond with his Wild Boars football team and would have kept them "calm and relaxed" inside the cave.

Volanthen, an IT consultant in his 40s who is based in Bristol, and Stanton, a firefighter from Coventry who is in his 50s, reached the group nine days after they went missing.

Adisak Wongsukchan told Al Jazeera he gave his 14-year-old son Nong Bew a big thumbs up when he first saw him in hospital. "They have to help each other".

"We are delighted with [the] successful outcome".

He said the boys, ranging in age from 11 to 16, were "incredibly resilient". Some of the patients flashed hand signs to let viewers know they're doing all right. The youngest boy, 11, appeared to be asleep under a crisp white sheet.

Earlier on Thursday, footage emerged of the boys recovering in hospital, sitting up and even waving at the camera, while their parents watched from behind the glass.

The British diver who found 12 Thai boys and their coach trapped alive in a flooded cave has described his "massive relief" as he counted them one by one, sparking a rescue bid unprecedented in its daring and complexity.

The boys would have to stay in the hospital for up to 10 days, hospital director Chaiwetch Thanapaisal told the news conference. Three have slight lung infections.

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They were discovered on June 3 and rescued after a three-day operation involving experts from several countries, including the Thai Navy Seal, the United States Indo-Pacific Command and British cave diving experts.

Meanwhile divers involved in the rescue operation have broken their silence on how the team managed to extract the boys and their coach from the cave where they had been stuck for more than two weeks. "The coach was the one to choose", he said.

The Australian anesthesiologist and his dive partner Craig Challen were key to the boys' rescue.

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Volanthen also expressed condolences to the family of volunteer diver Saman Gunan, the retired Thai Navy SEAL who lost consciousness during an overnight operation delivering extra air tanks inside the cave and was confirmed dead on Friday. "They are children being children, it was an accident", Narongsak said. He lauded the cooperation between Thai and worldwide rescuers.

The Pentagon downplayed the role of USA troops, releasing little information about them until the boys and their coach began emerging from the cave system.

But the mission would last a further eight days, with the risk of extracting the weakened group through flooded, tight, twisting passageways intensified by the risk of fresh rains and falling oxygen levels inside the cave.

The diver who spoke to AFP said the boys were "groggy" but "breathing" when he helped to pull them out, while the BBC reported that according to divers, the boys were "heavily sedated to avoid anxiety". Before their discovery, they survived by drinking water dripping into their cramped refuge.

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