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.