Chilean miners mark two months trapped underground

13:33, October 06, 2010      

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Andre Sougarret (C), chief of the rescue operations, talks to the press by the San Jose mine, near Copiapo, 800 km north of Santiago, Chile, on Oct. 5, 2010, where 33 miners remain trapped since a shaft collapsed on August 5. (Xinhua/Jorge Villegas)

Thirty-three miners trapped deep underground in a copper mine in northern Chile on Tuesday marked two months since the mine they were working in collapsed on Aug. 5.

On the ground, the miners' relatives, who had set up a camp outside the mine on Aug. 22 when it was announced that all the miners trapped were still alive, held a brief ceremony at which they placed 33 flags, one for each miner, as a symbol of remembrance.

At the ceremony outside the mine, some 800 kms north of the capital Santiago, rescuers announced that the miners could be rescued sooner than the planned date of earlier November.

Pedro Buttazzoni, president of the company which owns the drill T-130, part of a rescue effort dubbed "Plan B," said the machine was just 160 meters away from the miners trapped 700 meters underground and that it could reach them as early as this week.

Once "Plan B" reaches where the miners are trapped, the next step would be to determine if the drilled well has to be reinforced with tubes to reduce risks in a rescue, which could delay the rescue for some days.

"We are going to see the condition of the wall with a video camera so as to make the best decision," said Andres Sougarret, chief of the rescue operation.

On Monday, President Sebatian Pinera said he hoped the rescue would be carried out before he departs for a European tour on Oct. 17.

"It is very important to share that moment, not only with the 33 miners, trapped since Aug. 5, but also with their relatives and Chilean people," Pinera said.

"It would be news conveying hope and joy to the whole world." he said.

However, Interior Minister Cristian Barra said Tuesday that neither the dates nor any decisions on the rescue "are related to the president's agenda or a politician's criteria."

"Here the criteria is the well-being of the miners, their health and their technical needs, and each decision related to the case is based on the technicians' and experts' suggestions," Barra said.

Meanwhile, authorities are setting up a temporary hospital outside the mine. Rescued miners would receive treatment in the hospital first before being taken by helicopter to Copiapo, a city some 45 kms away.

The miners themselves have been working underground removing the rubble left while the Plan B machine is drilling down.

Source: Xinhua


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