Saturday 20 January 2018

Families celebrate as miners emerge

Families and rescuers are celebrating as trapped miners steadily emerge from their half-mile-deep dungeon under the Chilean desert.

Twelve men - more than a third of the 33 trapped since early August - have so far been pulled from the mine.

The 11th - 55-year-old Jorge Galleguillos - came up into the desert sun just over 10 hours after the rescue capsule dubbed "Phoenix" extracted the first miner.

The miners jubilantly embraced wives, children and rescuers and looked remarkably composed after languishing for 69 days in the depths of a mine that easily could have been their tomb.

The anxiety that had accompanied the final days of preparation melted away at 12:11am local time when the stoutest of the men, Florencio Avalos, emerged from the missile-like rescue capsule smiling broadly after his journey to the surface.

In a din of cheers, he hugged his sobbing seven-year-old son and wife and then President Sebastian Pinera, who has been deeply involved in a rescue effort that had become a matter of national pride.

The most ebullient of the bunch came out second, an hour later.

"I think I had extraordinary luck. I was with God and with the devil. And I reached out for God," said Mario Sepulveda as he waited to be taken to a nearby hospital where all the miners will spend 48 hours under medical observation.

Eleven men were pulled from the mine at a methodical pace in roughly the first nine and a half hours of the operation, putting the rescue on track to end before the sun rises on Thursday, barring any major glitches.

The miners have survived more time trapped underground than anyone on record, and the world has been captivated by their endurance and unity as officials carefully planned their rescue.

© Press Association

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