Thursday, October 14, 2010

Chile mine rescue reaches endgame

Chile mine rescue reaches endgame

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The first miner to be rescued was Florencio Avalos
Thirty-one of the 33 miners trapped underground for more than two months in northern Chile have been rescued amid scenes of jubilation.
In a continuing operation, a specially made capsule has been winching the men one by one to the surface.
Mining minister Laurence Golborne said the rescue had gone faster than expected, and the rest are on track to be out by the end of the night.
The miners' loved ones have been at the top of the shaft to greet them.
All the freed miners are being taken to a triage centre for health checks. Some of them will have to have emergency dental surgery. All of them are being checked for skin infections and respiratory conditions after more than two months in 30C heat and humidity of 85%.
One of the miners, who has not been named, is suffering from pneumonia.
The men have been trapped underground since 5 August, when a rockfall caused a tunnel to collapse.
'Gracias Chile!' The rescue operation began shortly after 2315 on Tuesday (0215 GMT on Wednesday) with a technical expert, Manuel Gonzalez, being lowered down the 624m (2,047ft) shaft.
Mr Gonzalez was supposed to return to the surface and report on the condition of the rescue shaft, before handing over to a paramedic.
However, a live video feed from the refuge where the miners were gathered showed Mr Avalos getting into the "Phoenix" capsule. He was chosen to lead the way because he was one of the fittest of the miners.
Mr Avalos reached the surface at 0010 (0310 GMT) and was greeted by his family, rescuers, President Sebastian Pinera and the first lady, Cecilia Morel.

Miners freed so far

Pictures of the 31 rescued miners
Rescued: Florencio Avalos (31), Mario Sepulveda (39), Juan Illanes (51), Carlos Mamani (23), Jimmy Sanchez (19), Osman Araya (30), Jose Ojeda (46), Claudio Yanez (34), Mario Gomez (63), Alex Vega (31), Jorge Galleguillos (56), Edison Pena (34), Carlos Barrios (27), Victor Zamora (33), Victor Segovia (48), Daniel Herrera (27), Omar Reygadas (56), Esteban Rojas (44), Pablo Rojas (45), Dario Segovia (48), Yonni Barrios (50), Samuel Avalos (43), Carlos Bugueno (27), Jose Henriquez (54), Renan Avalos (29), Claudio Acuna, (35), Franklin Lobos (53), Richard Villarroel (27), Juan Aguilar (49), Raul Bustos (40), Pedro Cortez (24)
To follow: Ariel Ticona (29), Luis Urzua (54)
Source: List given to miners' families
Bystanders cheered and clapped, and then started chanting "Chile".
Mr Avalos gave a thumbs-up before being taken in an ambulance to a medical triage centre and then given time with his family.
Mr Pinera, his wife and Mr Golborne have been at the head of the shaft for most of the rescue operation.
The others freed so far are:
  • Jimmy Sanchez, 19, the youngest of the group who had only been working at the mine for five months and had been showing signs of anxiety
  • Mario Gomez, at 63 the oldest miner, who sent up a letter shortly after the miners were found to be alive, saying that the mining company "has got to modernise"
  • Jose Ojeda, whose scribbled note - which read "All 33 of us are safe in the shelter" - informed the world the miners were still alive 17 days after the rockfall that trapped them
  • Bolivian Carlos Mamani, the only non-Chilean, who was greeted by his president, Evo Morales
  • Mario Sepulveda, who brought a bag of stones from the mine as souvenirs
  • Juan Illanes, a former soldier who urged his fellow miners to be disciplined and organised while trapped
  • Claudio Yanez, who became engaged to his partner of 11 years, Cristina Nunez, during the ordeal
  • Yonni Barrios, whose wife only found out about his mistress when they both attended a vigil for him
  • Edison Pena, who became known as "the runner" because he ran up to 5km (3 miles) a day through the mine tunnels to keep himself fit
  • Victor Zamora, not a miner but a driver who had gone underground to repair a vehicle and was trapped by the rockfall
  • Omar Reygadas, a bulldozer operator who, after leaving the capsule, knelt on the ground clutching a Bible
  • Esteban Rojas, who while underground told his girlfriend of 25 years that he now wanted to marry her
  • Jose Henriquez, an evangelical preacher who had the job of keeping up his colleagues' spirits
  • Claudio Acuna, one of the "palomeros" who handled packages for the group; he celebrated his birthday down the mine
  • Franklin Lobos, a former professional soccer player in a Chilean league who received a signed t-shirt sent to the mine by Barcelona star David Villa
  • Richard Villarroel, whose partner Dana Castro is heavily pregnant
  • Raul Bustos, whose wife has described him as the "luckiest unlucky man on Earth". He lost his builder's business in the central port city of Talcahuano during Chile's earthquake in February, and headed north to the San Jose mine for a new start
  • Alex Vega, Jorge Galleguillos, Carlos Barrios, Victor Segovia, Daniel Herrera, Pablo Rojas, Dario Segovia, Osman Araya, Samuel Avalos, Carlos Bugueno and Renan Avalos, Juan Aguilar, Pedro Cortez
Chilean Health Minister Jaime Manalich said the health of the miners was "generally good".
<div class="warning"> <img class="holding" src="" alt="Mario Sepulveda, the second miner to be rescued" /> <p><strong>Please turn on JavaScript.</strong> Media requires JavaScript to play.</p> </div>
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Mario Sepulveda handed out stones to the rescue team on the surface
After their reunion with relatives, the miners are being flown by helicopter to hospital in the nearby city of Copiapo.
Outside the hospital, barriers have been set up to cope with the crowds of onlookers and journalists.
During their journey to the surface, the miners wear a "bio-harness" designed for astronauts, which monitors their heart rate, breathing, temperature and oxygen consumption. They are also given sunglasses to protect their eyes from the glare of the desert after more than two months underground.
The rescue capsule is checked every eight ascents.
After all the miners have ascended, the six rescuers sent down to assist them will have to be brought to the surface.
In an address after the first miner reached the surface, President Pinera thanked those who had made it possible and said it was a night of emotion.
Recalling the devastating earthquake that struck Chile in February, he said the miners had shown that "when Chile is united, we are capable of doing great things".
"This country shows its true soul, shows what it is capable of, when we face adversity."
One of the miners, Edison Pena, has received an invitation to the Elvis Presley estate, Graceland, in the American state of Tennessee. Mr Pena kept up the spirits of the other miners by singing Elvis songs underground.
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