Rescued Chile miners reach surface
Three of the 33 Chilean miners trapped in a collapsed mine for more than two months have been raised through a small rescue tunnel in a skinny, missile-like capsule nicknamed "Phoenix".Florencio Avalos, a 31-year-old driver, was the first miner to be rescued on Wednesday and was chosen because he was considered among the most physically and mentally fit of the group.He smiled broadly as he emerged and hugged his sobbing 7-year-old son and wife. He then embraced Sebastian Pinera, the president who is at the scene overseeing the rescue operation.The president described how lovely it was to see Avalos' son greet their father."I told Florencio, that few times have I ever seen a son show so much love for his father," Pinera said."This won't be over until all 33 are out," he said. "Hopefully the spirit of these miners will remain forever with us ... This country is capable of great things."Avalos was then was escorted into a medical triage centre for the first of a battery of tests.The miners are pulled up through a 600-metres-deep shaft in a rescue capsule wide as the shoulders of an average built miner, designed specifically for the operation. The miners can communicate with rescue teams using an intercom in the capsule.Quick rescue Mario Sepulveda, a 39-year-old electrical specialist, was the second to reach the surface. After hugging his wife, he jubilantly handed souvenir rocks to laughing rescuers."I'm so happy!" Sepulveda yelled, punching his fist in the air and hugging everyone in sight.Al Jazeera's Lucia Newman, reporting from the mine, said it took only 16 minutes for Avalos to be pulled up the shaft.
But it's been much, much quicker which means this whole operation could be finished within a day rather than the 48 hours initially announced."
"Initially we had been told by authorities it would take about an hour for the journey from the bottom of the mine to the surface," she said.
Avalos began his journey after a mining rescue expert and and a paramedic were lowered down the rescue tunnel to prepare the miners for their rescue.
The risky operation is being followed minute-by-minute by international media and Chilean citizens.
Each miner stepping out of the capsule is being greeted by up to three family members and waiting doctors before being flown to a regional hospital for at least two days of check-ups.
Officials have decided the order in which the miners are being pulled up, based on their health and capacities.
First out will be those best able to handle any difficulties and tell their comrades what to expect. Then, the weakest and the ill - in this case, about 10 suffer from hypertension, diabetes, dental and respiratory infections and skin lesions from the mine's humidity. The last should be people who are both physically fit and strong of character. Foreman last
The last miner out will be Luis Urzua, the shift foreman, whose leadership was credited for helping the men endure 17 days with no outside contact after the mine collapsed on August 5.
The 32 Chileans and one Bolivian trapped in the San Jose mine in northern Chile were initially believed to have persihed, but they had found refuge in an emergency shelter and survived by strictly rationing their food and water.
Since then, tests of the tunnel have been successfully completed. Engineers initially said the rescue of each miner could take up to 90 minutes, meaning the entire rescue could last up to two days. The last of them was expected to be saved by late on Thursday.
Initially, officials had thought it would take until Christmas to get the miners out, but the drilling of a rescue tunnel 622 metres deep to reach where the miners were trapped was completed last weekend.
Monica Villamizar, Al Jazeera's correspondent at the scene of the rescue, said: "Authorities have told us that after all the necessary medical tests have been made, and the check-ups complete, they are free to go with their families and they are free to talk with whoever they want.
"There are a lot of rumours here about contracts going on and even deals for books and films with Hollywood." Medical preparations
Each of the trapped miners has been promised six months of psychological support by the Chilean government.
The men, who set a new record for the length of time workers have survived underground after a mining accident, have been doing exercises to keep their weight down for their ascent.
Preparing for the rescue, doctors have ordered the miners to do 20 minutes of aerobic exercise a day to prevent muscle cramps on the way to the surface.
"The miners are very busy, that's also to keep their spirits up," Manalich said.
"It remains a paradox: they're actually much more relaxed than we are.
"We have to protect them until the last minute, until they can return to normal lives with their families."
Medics say some of the men are psychologically fragile and may struggle with stress for a long time after their rescue.
Chile rescue shaft reaches miners
First man could be pulled out within days as shaft drilled to reach trapped miners is completed.
Last Modified: 09 Oct 2010 20:57 GMT
The final breakthrough came on Saturday, and officials said the first workers could be pulled up to the surface of the mine, near the town of Copiapo, within a few days."We heard sirens from the location of the drill [and] that means the shaft has made contact," Al Jazeera's Monica Villamizar said, reporting from Copiapo.
The decision on whether or not the shaft needs to be lined with steel will be announced today, our correspondent said.
A senior engineer said the planned operation could be risky, with miners having to set off explosives to widen the bottom of the mine so the rescue capsule would fit."It's an explosion and that means taking precautions. We have to clear the area so that the shock wave doesn't reach anyone," Andre Sougarret, the engineer in charge, said.
The men have been trapped for 65 days, a world record for surviving underground after a mining accident, since the mine where they were working caved in.
Preparing for the rescue, doctors have ordered the miners to do 20 minutes of aerobic exercise a day to prevent muscle cramps on the way to the surface.Engineers say each capsule trip to the surface could take up to 1.5 hours, meaning the entire rescue could last up to two days.They will also have to fast for eight hours before they come up, and they have been given sunglasses to protect their eyes after so much time in the dark.Excitement built on Friday with about 800 journalists and camera crews from around the world gathering, hoping to capture the first images of the men emerging from the mine.
Outside the mine, relatives staying in the tents and temporarily homes known as Camp Hope spent a restless night waiting to hear the siren blast that would announce the drill's success."God be willing, in a few days the whole country will be weeping with joy... when we see these miners emerge from the depths of the mountain to embrace their wives, children, mothers and fathers," Sebastian Pinera, the Chilean president, said.Pinera said Evo Morales, the Bolivian president, would join him for the rescue. One of the trapped miners is Bolivian.Engineers had initially predicted the first rescues would not be until Christmas.Initially the miners were all thought to have perished. Then after two weeks of silence came an extraordinary note, penned in capitals and written with red ink, that gave Chile the miraculous news that the miners were still alive."All 33 of us are well inside the shelter," the note said.It was written by the eldest miner, 63-year-old Mario Gomez, and attached to a drill bit which breached their shelter on August 22.Cameras lowered through small bore holes have revealed pictures of the men, often bare-chested because of the tifling heat, and their shelter lit mainly by the lamps on their hard-hats.They are in remarkably good health, though some have skin infections from being in damp, humid conditions for so long.