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We're alive! TV images of Chilean miners 18 DAYS after being trapped... but it could be Christmas be


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We're alive! TV images of Chilean miners 18 DAYS after being trapped... but it could be Christmas before they are rescued



By James White

Last updated at 7:04 PM on 23rd August 2010





  • Miners' message from 2,300ft below: 'All 33 of us are fine in the shelter'
  • It will take months to get them out, say experts
  • Men are in a mine shaft shelter the size of a small apartment

Rescue workers were today battling to reach 33 miners trapped underground for 18 days in a Chilean mine.


Experts said it would take months to dig the men out after they managed to attach a paper message to a probe sent 2,300ft below the surface to find them.

The discovery of the miners yesterday sparked scenes of joy among relatives waiting at the surface since the August 5 accident at the small gold and copper works.

Scroll down for video report


article-1305350-0AE2852C000005DC-192_634x404.jpg This TV grab shows part of the head of Florencio Antonio Avalos Silva, one of 33 trapped miners. Chilean National TV (TVN) passed a camera 2,300ft down through the borehole to get images of the trapped men who have been there for 17 days



article-1305350-0AE2703B000005DC-200_634x432.jpg Celebration: Chilean President Sebastian Pinera holds a note from the 33 miners trapped in the copper and gold mine in Copiapo, in the north of the country. It reads 'All 33 of us are fine in the shelter'. The men have been there since August 5






article-1305350-0AE3C2D7000005DC-974_634x286.jpg The miners are 4.5 miles inside the winding mine and about 2,300ft vertically underground. They are inside a mine shaft shelter the size of a small apartment.


Holding the message aloft for TV cameras at the San Jose mine near Copiapo, Chile, President Sebastian Pinera said 'It will take months' to get the miners out.


He added: 'It will take time, but it doesn't matter how long it takes to have a happy ending.'

'The 33 of us in the shelter are well,' read the message written with red paint on the piece of paper that Pinera held up on television.

Rescuers lowered a television camera down the bore-hole, and some of the miners looked into the lens.


Some were bare-chested because of the heat in the mine, and officials said they looked in better-than-expected condition.


As night fell, elated relatives of the trapped miners gathered with rescue workers around bonfires for a barbecue, celebrating with traditional live music and dance.


article-1305350-0AE29936000005DC-681_634x412.jpg Happiness: Chile's Mining Minister Lourence Golbourne, right, celebrates with the nation's president, wearing a blue shirt, and relatives




article-1305350-0AE29DC0000005DC-882_634x397.jpg All alive: A poster of all 33 men made by relatives who have held a vigil at the San Jose mine since the collapse


'We didn't sleep. We stayed up all night long hoping for more news. They said that new images would appear, so we were up hoping to see them,' said relative Carolina Godoy.


In the capital of Santiago, around 200 people gathered at the main plaza, waving flags to celebrate the news. Drivers honked their horns and diners applauded in restaurants.


The miners are 4.5 miles inside the winding mine and about 2,300ft vertically underground. They are inside a mine shaft shelter the size of a small apartment.


Authorities said they had limited amounts of food, and doctors advised sending down glucose, enriched mineral water and medicines as well as other foods.


Health officials estimated the miners may have lost about 17.5lb to 20lb each.


Deep in the mine, located near the northern city of Copiapo, there are tanks of water and ventilation shafts that helped the miners to survive.


They used the batteries of a truck down in the mine to charge their helmet lamps, some of which were shining in the television images.


article-1305350-0AE29C08000005DC-406_634x375.jpg Vigil: Relatives continue their celebrations into the night after learning the men are alive




article-1305350-0AD407DE000005DC-379_634x343.jpg Rescue effort: Workers insert a probe into the mine shaft in a bid to make contact with the miners


'God is great,' 63-year-old Mario Gomez, the eldest of the trapped miners, wrote in a letter to his wife attached to the drill along with the message, which Pinera read on television.

'This company has got to modernise. But I want to tell everyone I'm OK, and am sure we will survive,' he added.

Gomez's 28-year-old daughter said: 'When he comes out, I'm going to give him a million kisses. No-one will be able to take this happiness away from me.


'I've never felt anything like this in my life. It's like being born again. I can't wait to talk to him.'

Rescuers plan to reinforce the bore-hole and then send narrow plastic tubes called 'doves' down it with food, hydration gels and communications equipment.


However the mine is unstable, and rescue workers were forced to abandon attempts to dig past the main cave-in and down a ventilation shaft.

The plan is now to dig a new shaft to enable the trapped miners to leave, which will take months.


Rescue workers said it could take as much as 120 days to dig a new tunnel to reach them.


article-1305350-0ADA4A03000005DC-614_634x386.jpg Sadness: Before the men were found, relatives of the miners struggled to cope with their emotions as they waited for news of their fate




article-1305350-0AD4081B000005DC-159_634x379.jpg Prayers and candelit vigils were held every night by relatives desperate for news about the miners

Enlarge article-1305350-0AE32AB7000005DC-532_306x378.jpg The men were working at the San Jose mine, near the city of San Jose Copiapo, in the north of the South American country, when the rock above them collapsed


Pinera fired top officials of Chile's mining regulator and vowed a major overhaul of the agency in light of the accident.

The country is the world's number producer of copper and although large-scale mining accidents are rare, 16 workers have been killed at the San Jose mine alone in recent years.

The men already have been trapped underground longer than all but a few miners rescued in recent history.


Last year, three miners survived 25 days trapped in a flooded mine in southern China, and two miners in north-eastern China were rescued after 23 days in 1983. Few other rescues have taken more than two weeks.

The miners' survival after 17 days is very unusual, but since they've made it this far, they should emerge physically fine, said Davitt McAteer, who was assistant secretary for mine safety and health under U.S. President Bill Clinton.

Mr McAteer said: 'The health risks in a copper and gold mine are pretty small if you have air, food and water.'

Still, he said the stress of being trapped underground for a long period of time can be significant.


'There is a psychological pattern there that we've looked at,' he added. 'But they've established communication with the guys; there are people who can talk them through that.'


The hole already drilled will be used to send down small capsules containing food, water and oxygen if necessary, and sound and video equipment so the miners can better communicate with loved ones and rescuers. That two-way communication may be key to keeping them thinking positive.


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