Chilean rescue workers have begun to successfully pull the 33 trapped miners to the surface in the world’s longest underground mine rescue. The first miner to be rescued at midnight Tuesday, Florencio Avalos emerged from the San Jose copper after spending 69 days trapped in a tunnel more 700 meters underground.
The rescue was broadcasted live to virtually the whole world with 1.600 media people at the San Jose camp following events.
“I am so overwhelmed with emotion because it’s been so long since we have seen him,” Avalos’ father Alfonso said in comments broadcast by Chile’s TVN. “I am so content, so happy. Thank God that he emerged so strong.”
Avalos embraced his wife and son and Chile’s President Sebastián Piñera before being taken to a mobile hospital as rescuers shouted “Long Live Chile.” Sepulveda joked with rescuers and Piñera, who will oversee the rescue of the remaining men over the next 24 hours to 48 hours at the mine in the Atacama Desert.
The four-meter long “Phoenix” capsule painted in the red, white and blue colours of the Chilean flag is acting as an elevator, hoisting the miners to the surface through a 26-inch wide rescue hole.
Families embraced and threw confetti at the mine site where they have camped for more than two months to await the rescue of the men. They had lit fires to fend off the cold. Police erected barricades to protect the families from hundreds of reporters.
The miners were discovered alive on Aug. 22 after being trapped since Aug. 5, when the mine’s access collapsed. The miners’ only contact with the outside world was through drill holes that were used to discover them and through which they receive food, water and medicine.
The survival of the San Jose miners surpasses a 25-day rescue of three coal miners in a flooded mine in Guizhou, China in 2009.
“Chileans and the entire world are not going to forget this night,” Piñera told the more than 1,600 reporters gathered at the mine site. “When Chile unites, and it always happens in adversity, we are capable of big things.”
Piñera said the San Jose mine will be converted into a national monument to reflect hope for future generations. He wore the same red jacket he used in the aftermath of an 8.8-magnitude earthquake that struck Chile in February and will stay near the rescue site alongside Bolivian counterpart, Evo Morales. One of the 33 miners is Bolivian.
Piñera approval rating has increased since his government started the rescue operation more than two months ago, while Mining Minister Laurence Golborne has become the most popular member of the president’s cabinet.
Piñera popularity grew to 57 percent in September from 54 percent in a May poll, Santiago-based research group Centre for the Study of Contemporary Reality, or CERC, said in a report published Oct. 7. The Sept. 3-13 poll of 1,200 people has a margin of error of 3 percentage points.
The miners are being split into three groups for the rescue. The first will provide information to rescuers and possibly help with the operation, Health Minister Jaime Manalich said. The weakest will then come out, followed by the rest. The last to be rescued will be shift foreman Luis Urzua.
The 33 men were given meals rich in minerals and protein to prevent nausea and stabilize blood pressure during the ascent and examined remotely by medical officials on the surface. Ten have been identified by authorities as being the most in need of special care, Manalich said.
They’ll wear elastic bands on their lower extremities and a waistband during the 15- to 20-minute ascent that will help ensure proper blood circulation and prevent a reduction in arterial pressure and possible fainting, the health minister said. Rescue workers will supply the miners with emergency oxygen in case dust on the ascent causes breathing problems.