The rescue of the 33 Chilean miners, who have been trapped for 2 months almost 700m underground, began in the early hours of this morning. 9 of the men have been rescued at the time of writing and the miners are reaching the surface one by one approximately an hour apart.
The miners have been trapped since the gold and copper mine they were working in collapsed on the 5th of august. The miners were believed dead until the 22nd of August when rescuers managed to establish contact with the group. They had managed to keep themselves alive by consuming tiny rations of milk, two spoonfuls of tuna and a biscuit every 48hours.
3 drills were deployed to reach the men and one, Schramm T-130, finally broke through on the 9th of October beginning a long rescue process where the men could be winched up to the surface in a rescue capsule. The top portion of the shaft was lined with a metal casing to enable the capsule, named ‘Phoenix’, to travel smoothly up and down the extremely narrow and twisting 622m shaft.
NASA have advised the Chilean rescuers on all aspects of the process, from psychology to the building of the capsule. Phoenix weighs approximately 250kgs and is fitted out with oxygen tanks and mask, a camera directed at the face of the ascender and a two way audio link to allow rescuers to monitor their progress.
The men have been split into three groups: ‘Able’, ‘weak’ and ‘strong’, and are being rescued in that order. The able group, consisting of 4 fairly healthy men, was the first to test the rescue procedure and reported back to the weaker miners in order to prepare them for the journey. There are 12 men classified as weak whose health is considered to be precarious. The fittest men will be the last to leave the mine in a rescue process that has been estimated to take between 24 and 48 hours.
Florencio Avalos was the first miner to be rescued, reaching the surface at 12.11 Chilean time, 4.11am UK time. Avalos, 31, has acted as cameraman and second in command to Luis Uzua, the shift foreman.
Urzua has become a national hero after his leadership during the groups ordeal and will be the last man to leave the collapsed mine. The foreman was responsible for the strict rationing that kept the men alive and has been instrumental in maintaining order and providing the men with a sense of purpose.
The miners have been equipped with dark glasses and green waterproof suits for their journey to the surface. They will be taken to a darkened ward in a field hospital and re-introduced to light over 2 days after almost 10 weeks of darkness. NASA has praised Chilean Health authorities for the startlingly good health of the miners. However, all are aware that psychological issues will be the most pressing for the rescued miners as they try to readjust after being isolated underground for so long.
The government yielded to demands from family members for immediate contact with the rescued miners. A maximum of 2 family members have been allowed to greet the rescued as they leave the capsule. Videos and photos of the rescue have shown emotional scenes as the miners are reunited with their loved ones.
Image courtesy of The Guardian