Trapped miners celebrate Chile's bicentennial 700 meters underground

14:09, September 19, 2010      

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Video images from the depth of the well showed the miners, some of them dressed in red, sing the national anthem on Sept. 18, 2010. (Xinhua/Reuters Photo)

Joining their compatriots across the country, the 33 miners trapped 700 meters underground in Chile did't forget the nation's bicentennial on Saturday even when their lives were in danger.

Video images from the depth of the well showed the miners, some of them dressed in red, were singing the national anthem, and one of them was dancing Cuenca, a traditional Chilean dance.

Through a video transmission system, the miners were able to watch the independence celebrations held in the capital city of Santiago and send images up to the ground.

The miners were inspired by the address of Chilean President Sebastian Pinera, who applauded the spirit of the miners and pledged all-out efforts to rescue them.

Racing to the celebrations from the rescue scene, Mining Minister Laurence Golborne said if things went smooth, the miners could be brought to the surface by early November.

On Saturday night, the celebrations hit its climax when an image sent out by the miners that reads "We 33 miners are all alive in a shelter" aroused waves of cheers and applauses among tens of millions of people on the Ciziten's Square in front of the Presidential Palace.

Also on Saturday, family members of the trapped miners hoisted a Chilean flag signed by each of the workers in an Independence Day ceremony at a camp near the entrance to the San Jose copper-gold mine, which collapsed on Aug. 5.

"These 33 miner heroes, with their iron will, their spirit, their fight, their strength, are an example to all of us of what it means to be Chilean," Interior Ministry official Cristian Barra said at the ceremony.

A special greeting was sent to Carlos Mamani, the only Bolivian among the 33 miners, by his country's President Evo Morales, who arrived here as the guest of the Chilean government to attend the bicentenary celebration.

Three drills were currently working at the scene. On Friday, news reaching here said one drill of the rescue "Plan B" finally broke through to 630 meters underground, puncturing the top of a passage near the shelter in the mine where the miners took refuge

It will start to widen the shaft to about 70 cm, enough for an adult to come through.

The 32 Chileans and a Bolivian were found alive after 17 days of isolation in the mine near Copiapo, about 800 km north of Santiago, when rescuers reached them through 10 centimeter-diameter ducts drilled after the collapse.

The miners kept their wits during the ordeal, washing tiny bits of canned tuna and peaches down with sips of milk every other day to stretch a 48-hour emergency food supply.

The workers have since been receiving water, food, oxygen and messages through the ducts.

The government has refused to estimate the cost of the rescue effort but the drilling alone will cost nearly 5 million U.S. dollars, meaning the overall bill could reach 10 million dollars or more before the miners see sunlight.

Saturday -- the anniversary when Chile declared independence from Spain on Sept. 17, 1810, launching a war they finally won in 1818 -- will be the 46th day of the miners' confinement.

Michael Fortt, chief engineer of the rescue operation, said the miners were in good health and that they talked daily with their families.

Source: Xinhua


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