Thursday, October 14, 2010

All miners rescued

Viktor Segovia, the fifteenth miner to be rescued from the San Jose Mine near Copiapo, Chile. -- PHOTO: AP

SAN JOSE MINE - THE rescue of 33 miners trapped deep underground in Chile for 10 long weeks reached a successful finale on Wednesday with all of the men winched to safety, triggering joy around the world at their improbable salvation.

Euphoria met the start of the rescue operation early on Wednesday: with horn blasts, flashing lights, congratulations, and a global, shared sense that human ingenuity, this time, had cheated death.

The miners stepping out of the capsule after a 15-minute ascent up a 622m escape shaft pumped their fists in the sky they had not seen for 69 days, or dropped to their knees in prayer.

As the sun was setting over the San Jose gold and copper mine where the dramatic event was unfolding, 25 miners had been brought to the surface, and eight were left waiting their turn.

'We hope to successfully complete this process by the end of the day,' Mining Minister Laurence Golborne told reporters at the mine. 'We moved very rapidly, faster than originally planned.' A team of six rescue specialists had been sent down to the miners to help them get harnessed in the Phoenix capsule.

They would be the last to leave, in the first hours of Thursday, ending the rescue. The inspirational operation has mesmerised Chile and audiences worldwide, with an estimated billion people glued to television screens and the Internet. Words of congratulation poured in from presidents Barack Obama of the United States, Nicolas Sarkozy of France, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of Brazil, as well as Pope Benedict XVI and other dignitaries. -- AFP

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