Finally, the men are being brought up to the surface.
The first of 33 men was rescued Tuesday night after 69 days trapped in a collapsed mine, pulled to fresh air and freedom at last in a missile-like escape capsule to the cheers of his family and countrymen.
Florencio Avalos, wearing a helmet and sunglasses to protect him from the glare of rescue lights, smiled broadly as he emerged and hugged his sobbing 7-year-old son, Bairo, and wife. He also embraced Chilean President Sebastian Pinera and rescuers.
After the capsule was pulled out of a manhole-sized opening, Avalos emerged as bystanders cheered, clapped and broke into a chant of "Chi! Chi! Chi! Le! Le! Le!" — the country's name.
Avalos gave a thumbs-up as he was led to an ambulance and medical tests after his more than two months deep below the Chilean desert — the longest anyone has ever been trapped underground and survived....
More than 1,000 journalists are at the scene, but the only media allowed to record them coming out of the shaft will be a government photographer and Chile's state TV channel, whose live broadcast will be delayed by 30 seconds or more to prevent the release of anything unexpected. Photographers and camera operators are on a platform more than 300 feet (90 meters) away..
The miners will be ushered through an inflatable tunnel, like those used in sports stadiums, to an ambulance for a trip of several hundred yards (meters) to a triage station for a medical check. They will gather with a few relatives in an area also closed to the media, before being taken by helicopter to a hospital.
Each ride up the shaft is expected to take about 20 minutes, and authorities expect they can haul up one miner per hour. When the last man surfaces, it promises to end a national crisis that began when 700,000 tons of rock collapsed Aug. 5, sealing the miners into the lower reaches of the mine.
... The capsule — the biggest of three built by Chilean navy engineers — was named Phoenix for the mythical bird that rises from ashes. It is painted in the white, blue and red of the Chilean flag.
The miners were to be closely monitored from the moment they're strapped in the capsule. They were given a high-calorie liquid diet donated by NASA, designed to keep them from vomiting as the capsule rotates 10 to 12 times through curves in the 28-inch-diameter escape hole.
A video camera in the escape capsule would watch for panic attacks. The miners will wear oxygen masks and have two-way voice communication.
Their pulse, skin temperature and respiration rate will be constantly measured through a biomonitor around their abdomens. To prevent blood clotting from the quick ascent, they took aspirin and will wear compression socks.
The miners will also wear sweaters because they'll experience a shift in climate from about 90 degrees underground to near freezing on the surface after nightfall. Those coming out during daylight hours will wear sunglasses.
Let's hope and pray that they all get out safe and sound - and that they will be able to recover fully from this difficult ordeal. No doubt that their lives will be forever changed... and there will be fame and book and movie deals along with it.
God bless them all.
Thanks goes to all from many countries (including the USA) who have helped bring about this miraculous recovery effort.
Congratulations Chile! You did it!