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In Chile, 17 Days Underground Just the Beginning for 33 Miners

August 23, 2010 at 6:50 PM EDT

JEFFREY BROWN: Now a remarkable story of survival in a collapsed gold and copper mine in Chile, but one with much drama still to unfold. We begin with this report narrated by Rohit Kachroo of Independent Television News.

ROHIT KACHROO, ITN correspondent: Moments after the breakthrough, when a message from underground confirmed that the men were alive after 17 days. Hope came from a hand-written note scrawled on a scrap of paper, then held aloft by the Chilean president. “All 33 of us are fine,” it read.

Search teams bored a hole 700 meters underground. Eventually, a camera revealed a glimpse of one of the men. He’d lost weight, but he was well and he seemed to be smiling. When the drills were hoisted to earth, letters from underground were attached, but this was no SOS. “I am sure we will survive,” one of the miners confidently wrote.

It led to celebrations across Chile, a nation which had watched seven failed attempts to save the miners. Many were already mourning, unaware that beneath them, the men had dug a channel to an underground water supply. The daughter of one of the trapped miners said, “When he comes out, I’ll tell him a million times that I love him.”

But it may be a long wait. Although food and water can now be passed down the cavity, building a hole large enough to actually rescue the men may take until Christmas. Their faces have been seen but will not be seen in person for some time. Their wait will be long and uncomfortable, but they’re alive.