The heroic rescue of 12 young boys and their soccer coach from a flooded cave in Thailand almost ended in disaster after the failure of a vital water pump, Australian divers involved in the operation have revealed.

The group of three divers, who remained in the cave on Tuesday night to clear out rescue gear, told The Guardian they heard screams and saw a rush of rescue workers shortly after the final Thai Navy SEAL was freed.

A pump, which had kept floodwater levels low between the cave entrance and the ‘Chamber 3’ base, had stopped working.

“There were 100 guys running down the hill and the water was coming,” one diver told Fairfax Media.

“The water was noticeably rising.”

Fortunately, those still inside the cave were able to find higher ground and eventually find safety outside the cave.

Rescue workers had only freed the last of the Wild Boars soccer team hours before the pump’s failure, highlighting the critical timing of the entire operation.

News of the near-catastrophe comes as Australians call for Adelaide Dr Richard Harris to be given the Australian of the Year award.

Dr Harris, who has been been praised as a hero along with the other Australian rescue divers, dove into the cave to medically assess the boys and their coach before their treacherous journey to safety.

He’s one of 19 divers from around the world involved in the rescue operation, along with hundreds of others who volunteered to get those kids out of the cave.

Their (frankly insane) efforts saved lives – and came just before a tech failure which could have given this saga a much, much sadder ending.

Source: The Guardian
Image: Lauren DeCicca / Getty Images