Miners 'to be rescued on Wednesday'
Published 09/10/2010 | 22:22
Chile's trapped miners cheered and embraced when a drill punched an escape shaft into an underground chamber in a spray of rock and dust on the 66th day of their agonising entombment, opening the way for rescuers to set plans to begin lifting the men out by midweek.
Laurence Golborne, the government's mining minister, said that the extraction of the 33 men will probably begin on Wednesday, after an inspection revealed that the new hole is mostly strong enough to enable them to escape safely.
He said only a stretch at the top will be reinforced with steel pipe.
The completion of the rescue shaft caused bedlam in the tent city known as Camp Hope, where the miners' relatives have held vigil since a cave-in sealed off the gold and copper mine August 5.
Miners videotaping the drill breaking through a chamber's ceiling 2,041 feet underground could be seen cheering joyfully and hugging each other, the drillers said.
At the surface, the rescuers chanted, danced and sprayed champagne so excitedly that some of their hard hats tumbled off.
"On the video, they all started shouting and hugging and celebrating," said James Stefanic, operations manager for the US-Chilean drilling company Geotec.
The success of the escape shaft was a tremendous relief for families of the miners.
"We feel an enormous happiness," said Darwin Contreras, whose brother Pedro, a 26-year-old heavy machine operator, is stuck down below. "Now we just have to wait for them to get out, just a little bit longer now."