Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 2 September 2014

Ceremony marks Chile mine collapse

A man carries a Chilean flag during a small ceremony marking 60 days since 33 miners became trapped in Chile (AP)

The families of 33 miners trapped underground in Chile sang and blared sirens to mark the two-month anniversary of the collapse, as hopes rose for a sooner-than-expected rescue.

Interior Ministry official Cristian Barra said rehearsals for the rescue using helicopters and trucks will start on Friday, though he denied it meant the rescue is imminent.

"It means we want to be perfectly prepared so as not commit errors when the rescue takes place," Barra said.

On Monday, President Sebastian Pinera said he hoped the miners trapped deep underground could be rescued before he leaves for a trip to Europe, which officials have pushed back two days to October 17.

The government had originally said the rescue effort could take until December.

Rescue workers said one of the three drills boring toward the men had stopped Monday because of wear but had resumed operation on Tuesday afternoon.

Outside the San Jose mine, relatives of the miners blared sirens and horns, and a group sang Chile's national anthem, to mark the August 5 collapse of more than 700,000 tons of rock that sealed off the lower third of the mine.

For the last two weeks, the miners have been preparing for their rescue, sending keepsakes up in the same capsules that carry food, clean clothes, medicine and other supplies down through a narrow borehole to their underground cavern.

Letters from their families, signed Chilean flags and other things they don't want to leave behind are coming up out of the hole each day. Trapped miners are also shifting rubble that is falling into their cavern because of the drilling.

"Up here, the tension is greater than below. They are working tranquilly down there," said Veronica Ticona, sister of 29-year-old miner Ariel Ticona.

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