First Chile miners rescued from depths
The first of Chile’s 33 trapped miners have been hoisted to safety in a capsule barely wider than a man’s shoulders – cheering, punching the air and hugging their families after two months deep underground.
Rescuers, relatives and friends broke into jubilant cheers as father-of-two Florencio Avalos emerged on the surface to breathe his first fresh air in 69 days after a claustrophobic ascent of around 2,050 feet through thick rock.
Hugged and kissed by relatives, the 31-year-old looked very healthy following a 16-minute journey to safety. He was then embraced by President Sebastian Pinera as the surrounding crowd chanted “Chile! Viva Chile!”
Next up was fellow miner Mario Sepulveda, whose whoops of joy resounded on the surface even before he arrived to the laughs of waiting relatives. He stepped out of the capsule with a yellow bag, reached in and pulled out souvenir rocks from below, and slapped one in Pinera’s hand.
“I’m so happy!” Sepulveda yelled, grinning, punching his fist in the air and hugging everyone in sight.
Then came Juan Illanes, who called the trip to the surface a “cruise”. Each of the men wore dark glasses to protect their eyes after spending so long in the dimly-lit tunnel below.
The miners have spent a record 69 days in the hot, humid gold and copper mine in Chile’s northern Atacama desert since it caved in on Aug 5. Rescuers expect to bring all the remaining men to safety over the next two days.
For the first 17 days of their ordeal, the miners were all believed to be dead, and their story of survival and extraordinary rescue operation has captured the world’s attention.