Posted on 13 Oct 2010
An estimated one billion people worldwide were watching late Tuesday night into early Wednesday as the first four of 33 trapped miners in Chile have been rescued after spending 69 trapped a half-mile below in a cavern. As of this morning more than a third of the trapped of the miners have now made the journey from the cavern to the surface, emerging to the joyous tears of their relatives and cries of "Chi! Chi! Chi! Le! Le! Le!"
Chilean miner Florencio Avalos was the first of among the miners reach the surface Tuesday, with Mario Sepulveda the second, follwed by Juan Illanes, 52.
"The miners have demonstrated that when Chile pulls together, we’re capable of great things," Chilean President Sebastian Pinera told a crowd as a second rescuer, Roberto Rios, headed back down the shaft to the miners and helped Sepulveda into the capsule for the ride to the surface.
"This won't be over until all 33 are out," Pinera added. "Hopefully the spirit of these miners will remain forever with us."
The rescue operation was set to continue through the day Wednesday.
Earlier in the night, rescuers lowered the unmanned 14-foot capsule some 200 feet, while engineers made last-minute adjustments to systems to enable communication between the miners and the surface during their trips. On a second unmanned test run, rescuers descended the capsule the full length of the shaft.
The government had previously revealed the order in which the men will be extracted from the mine, where they have already endured longer than any previous mine accident survivors. The first men were chosen because they were thought to have the physical and mental attributes to work out any bugs that might emerge in the capsule.
At Camp Hope, the sprawling tent city the miners' relatives established after the Aug. 5 cave-in, family members anxiously counted the minutes for the rescue to begin its final phase.