Chilean Mine Rescue Underway

Sixty-nine days after an explosion trapped 33 miners 2,000 feet underground in the San José copper and gold mine in Copiapó, Chile, rescuers have begun lifting miners to the surface. As of 6am this morning, eight miners have been pulled to safety: Florencio Avalos, Mario Sepulveda, Juan Illanes, Carlos Mamani, Jimmy Sanchez, Osman Araya, José Ojeda, and Claudio Yañez.

The Associated Press explains that a specially constructed "Phoenix" capsule is raised and lowered, bringing one miner at a time through a 28-inch diameter hole. Each miner is equipped with an oxygen tank, communications gear to be in constant contact with the surface, and a biometric belt that lets a medical team monitor their breathing and heart rates. Rescue worker Manuel Gonzalez was lowered into the mine at the start of the rescue operation, and has been preparing the men.

Family members who've been camped at the mine entrance during the ordeal -- including many who waited there anxiously during the 17 days when the miners' fate was unknown -- will be eager to embrace their loved ones, but only 2-3 family members, along with President Sebastián Piñera, greets each miner initially. A triage team performs a medical check when the men emerge from the mine, and then a helicopter transports miners to the regional hospital in Copiapó for more thorough evaluation. Chilean newspaper La Tercera is tracking the number of miners at each stage of the rescue on its home page.

After more than two months in a dark, hot, and humid tunnel deep underground, the miners will face adjustments that must be overwhelming both physically and emotionally. They will be shielded from the media throng until they're released from the hospital.

The miners' strength and unity and the rescue workers' skill and persistence have captivated a global audience, and will continue to do so.

More like this

All 33 of the miners who were trapped in Chile's San José mine have been safely lifted to the surface, as have the six rescuers who descended into the mine during the operation. Shift supervisor Luis Urzua was the last miner lifted to safety in the specially designed capsule that traversed the…
Last week, I was fortunate to be able to attend the opening of a Smithsonian Museum of Natural History exhibit dedicated to the rescue of 33 miners from the San José mine in Chile, and meet two of miners whose story captivated the world as they endured 69 days underground following a mine…
After last week's triumphant rescue of 33 miners from Chile's San José mine, attention has turned to mine safety in Chile and worldwide. The Associated Press reports that President Sebastian Piñera fired the top regulators from Chile's mine safety agency and promised to triple its budget. In…
We've all heard about the Chilean miners trapped in a cave-in, who have been sustained for over two months by supplies delivered through a narrow tunnel drilled down to them. Their rescue is imminent, with an escape tunnel being drilled and almost at their position — they should be out this week.…

I am relieved to hear these guys are finally getting out of there!

By fullerenedream (not verified) on 13 Oct 2010 #permalink

At about 7 pm Pacific 10 pm Eastern time on October 13th, the New York Times reported that the last of the miners had been rescued and that all 33 are now safely above ground.

I got home just in time to watch him get to the surface! I'm not going to consider it done til the six rescuers who went down get back safely, though - two are up, four more on the way.

By Liz Borkowski (not verified) on 13 Oct 2010 #permalink

I watched this story on CNN last night as the first three miners were brought to the surface. Anderson Cooper made the observation that there was an openness about the San Jose Mine rescue that was not apparent at other mine disasters, such as Sago; that this had played out in public with everything taking place if full view. That is so different from what we see with the current actions and investigations.

I keep thinking of Sago and other US mine disasters, too, every time they show footage of the families during the initial days when they didn't know what had happened to the miners. Sago has that extra wrenching detail of the initial report that 12 of the 13 had been rescued when in fact 12 had been killed.

I hope someone does a detailed comparison between this mine collapse and a comparable US disaster - we could probably learn a few things from what the Chileans did well.

By Liz Borkowski (not verified) on 13 Oct 2010 #permalink