Developing: Rescue Operation for Chilean Miners

BY News Desk  October 13, 2010 at 10:09 PM EST

Updated 8:55 p.m. ET

Luiz Alberto Urzua becomes the 33rd and last miner to exit the mine in Chile. The shift foreman exited the mine to absolute jubilation from the crowds.

As the New York Times reports, the miners have thus far defied dire predictions on fitness and spirit as they were rescued.

Updated 8:46 p.m. ET

The capsule has left the bottom of the mine for the surface with the last miner. There are one miner and five rescuers left.

Updated 8:28 p.m. ET

Ariel Ticona second to last miner surfaces. He has never seen his first daughter who was born on Sept. 14. He has carried out the telephone the miners had used as their lifeline.

Updated 8:05 p.m. ET

Miner number 31 Pedro Cortez exits the mine. He was in charge of the telecom and sound recording once the miners were given equipment during the first few days after they were found.

Updated 7:37 p.m. ET

The 30th miner is up and out. Raúl Busto greeted by the Chilean president, the first lady and his anxious wife.

Updated 7:13 p.m. ET

Juan Carlos Aguilar, a father of two, is the 29th miner pulled to the surface. There are hugs all around. Just four more miners to go.

Updated 6:45 p.m. ET

Miner No. 28 — Richard Villarroel — is freed and has an emotional reunion with his family. Most of the miners have been transported from the site on stretchers as a precaution.

One miner has acute pneumonia, two need dental surgery and others have skin and eye problems, but in general the miners are in good physical shape, said Chile’s Health Minister Jaime Manalich, reported CNN:

“Things are extraordinarily well, better than expected,” Manalich said. “They really are in good condition — emotional condition and physical condition.”

Updated 6:18 p.m. ET

Franklin Lobos is the 27th miner to emerge. The rescue module is looking a little dinged up at this point but still operating well.

Updated 5:51 p.m. ET

The 26th miner Claudio Acuna comes out of the capsule and is greeted by his wife and 2-year-old daughter.

Each of the miners is wearing donated wrap-around Oakley sunglasses, which shields the men from harsh sunlight after spending months in the dimly lit tunnel. The exposure could be quite a boon for Oakley, according to CNBC.

Updated 5:24 p.m. ET

The 25th miner, Renan Avalos, makes it to the surface. Chile’s joyful rescue story is somewhat rare, the BBC notes, estimating that 10,000 to 20,000 miners are killed around the world every year.

Updated 4:59 p.m. ET

Jose Henriquez is the 24th miner rescued. CNN International reports on how the rescue effort has helped galvanize Chilean citizens.


Families of Chilean miners. Photo by Hector Retamal/AFP/Getty Images

Updated 4:33 p.m. ET

The 23rd miner, Carlos Bugueno, surfaces and is embraced by his mother.

Some of the miners might be dogged by psychological issues after the jubilation dies down, ABC reports.

Updated 4:05 p.m. ET

In what has become a routine task, the escape pod delivers Samuel Avalos from the miners’ rocky vault.

Our PBS colleagues at NOVA are currently on the scene of the mine rescue in Chile, working on an upcoming report about the operation.

In a new Inside Nova blog post, producer Nick Evans reflects on the “night of pure emotion” at the mine.

Updated 3:29 p.m. ET

Yonni Barrios, the 21st miner, reaches the surface and gives a long hug to a woman local television identifies as his wife, but reports later clarify as his girlfriend. You may remember Barrios as the miner whose wife and alleged mistress had an awkward meeting at the mine vigil site.

The Christian Science Monitor profiles several notable past mine rescues, including one in April in China, where 115 men fought rising flood waters before being pulled to safety.

Updated 3 p.m. ET

The 20th miner, Dario Segovia, breaks the surface. He flashes a victory sign with his arms and then hugs his wife.

Twenty-four of the miners come from nearby Copiapo, where the mayor canceled school so parents and students could watch the rescue effort from home, according to the Associated Press.

Updated 2:45 p.m. ET

President Obama has made some new remarks on the Chilean rescue:

“This is obviously something that’s captivated the world’s attention and this rescue is a tribute not only to the determination of the rescue workers and the Chilean government, but also the unity and resolve of the Chilean people who have inspired the world. And I want to express the hopes of the American people that the miners who are still trapped underground will be returned home safely as soon as possible.”

Updated 2:28 p.m. ET

Miner No. 19 is Pablo Rojas, cousin of the previous miner brought to safety. Once released from the capsule’s harness, Rojas waves and gives the crowd a thumb’s up.

The Guardian has compiled a list of winners and losers in the mine collapse. Winners include Chilean President Sebastian Pinera and Mining Minister Laurence Golborne, and on the loser list: mine owner Compania Minera San Esteban Primera and Bolivian President Evo Morales who arrived in Chile six hours after the only Bolivian miner, Carlos Mamani, was freed.

Updated 1:50 p.m. ET


Photo of Esteban Rojas by Hugo Infante/Government of Chile

Up comes the 18th miner, Esteban Rojas. He kneels and says a prayer before hugging his wife, who holds a portrait of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden issues a statement asking for continued thoughts and prayers for the miners, their families and the rescue workers, and expressing his appreciation for NASA personnel providing technical assistance in the rescue efforts:

“I am proud of the people of this agency who were able to bring the experience of spaceflight down to Earth when it was needed most. As the drama of this recue continues to unfold before us, we pray for the safe return of each and every miner.”

Updated 12:41 p.m. ET

The 17th miner to emerge is Omar Reygadas. After exiting the capsule, he hugged rescuers and then knelt on the ground.

The individual rescues have gone faster than originally thought because the capsule has not rotated as much as officials expected.

Updated 11:45 a.m. ET

Miner No. 15, Victor Segovia, is now free. According to the Associated Press, Segovia kept a diary of his life underground and asked for more pencils and papers to be sent down during the two-month wait for a rescue.


Photo of Victor Segovia by Hugo Infante/Government of Chile

Updated 10:46 a.m. ET

The 14th miner, Víctor Zamora Bugueno, has now been pulled to the surface.

Updated 10:05 a.m. ET

Thirteen miners have now been rescued, leaving 20 below ground.

CNN describes how the miners have spent their first minutes above ground:

Some gave thumbs-up, waved Chilean flags, and hugged their loved ones. One dropped to his knees and prayed, Another asked about his dog. One led the crowd in a cheer for Chile. And they were wheeled away on stretchers.

Updated 8:34 a.m. ET

The capsule emerged from the mine carrying Jorge Galleguillos, 56, the 11th miner to be rescued. One-third of the men are now at the surface, 22 remain underground.

The New York Times has a slide show of the rescue.

Updated 8:05 a.m. ET

Mario Gomez, 63, is the ninth miner rescued and the oldest among the group. After hugging his wife, Gomez dropped to his knees and prayed, with the Chilean flag in his hands. Watch his emotional reunion:

Updated 6:15 a.m. ET

As of 6:15 a.m. ET Wednesday, eight trapped miners have been lifted to freedom at the Chilean mine site. Another 25 await rescue underground.

The AP reports that at this pace and barring any technical problems, the rescue operation is on track to be complete early Thursday morning.

Watch raw video here of some of the miners arriving at a hospital at Copiapo, Chile.

Updated 1:15 a.m. ET

Miner No. 3, Juan Illanes, is hoisted to the surface to a round of applause. He grins and embraces his wife before being taken by stretcher to the on-site medical facility. The rescue operations were expected to continue through the night.

“This won’t be over until all 33 are out,” Chilean President Sebastian Pinera said at the scene. Three rescuers have also descended into the mine to assist with the evacuations.

We plan to continue updating events at the San Jose mine Wednesday morning here on the Rundown. More live coverage can be found at the New York Times, the Guardian and BBC News, among other places.

And you can find photos from the rescue scene from Chile’s mining ministry on its Flickr page.

Updated Wednesday 12:10 a.m. ET

The second miner, Mario Sepulveda, reaches the surface with a broad smile. He hugs Chilean President Sebastian Pinera, hands out souvenir rocks to officials, and chants excitedly with the crowd. Thirty-one miners await rescue.

Updated 11:44 p.m. ET

The torpedo-shaped cage with the next rescuer lands in the mine. The second miner, Mario Sepulveda, prepares to make the half-mile journey to the surface.

Updated 11:26 p.m. ET

The next rescuer, Robert Rios Seguel, heads down into the mine. When the trapped miners are lifted to the surface, they will each be brought to a nearby hospital for an evaluation.

Here’s video of the first rescued miner’s arrival on the surface:

Updated 11:11 p.m. ET

Sirens blare and the crowd around the San Jose mine shouts and waves Chilean flags as the rescue pod carrying the first miner, Florencio Avalos, comes into view. He steps out of the capsule and hugs and kisses his family.

Updated 10:55 p.m. ET

The first miner, Florencio Avalos, enters the capsule and begins his ride to the surface.

Updated 10:36 p.m. ET

A video camera in the cave where the 33 miners have been trapped for 69 days captures images of the capsule touching down in the mine. The men greet Manuel Gonzalez with hugs.

Updated 10:30 p.m. ET*

Cheers and clapping accompany the spinning wheel on the winch system that lowers the first rescuer into the mine. Florencio Avalos will be the first miner brought to the surface.

Updated 10:19 p.m. ET

Manuel Gonzalez, the first rescuer to be lowered to the miners, enters the capsule with a trio of oxygen tanks. Fellow rescue workers wish him luck and tell him to imagine he is at the beach.

Updated 10:15 p.m. ET

Here’s video of Jeffrey Brown’s interview with the Washington Post’s Jonathan Franklin, which was done at 9:30 p.m. ET for the West Coast edition of the NewsHour.

Updated 10 p.m. ET

Gathered at the mine site, awaiting the men’s safe ascent are crowds of journalists, families, construction workers, advisers from NASA, and other miners, said Jonathan Franklin of the Washington Post on Tuesday’s NewsHour.

“This was an SOS to the world mining community, and they responded,” he said.

The BBC is reporting that the first rescuer to descend into the mine is Manuel Gonzalez, who has 20 years of mining experience and 12 in mine rescues.

Updated 9:56 p.m. ET

MSNBC is reporting that there is some trouble with the door of the escape pod, so the rescuers are taking extra precautions to make sure it won’t delay the evacuations.

Updated 9:44 p.m. ET

Jonathan Franklin of the Washington Post, reporting from the scene of the mine, told the NewsHour late Tuesday that after the capsule is adjusted and tested, a rescue worker will be lowered into the hole. Within two hours, the first miner’s head should emerge, he said.

Some of the miners might have to be sedated, depending on their condition, Franklin said. The shaft leading to the miners does not go straight down, he added. “This is more like a roller coaster. It has more than a dozen curves. It’s not like an elevator.”

The miners didn’t sleep much last night, and they asked for more than the usual amount of cigarettes today, reported Franklin.

The capsule will travel about 3 feet per second down the chute, or up to 10 feet per second if the miner runs into trouble, according to Reuters. The capsule has escape hatches in case it gets lodged in the tunnel.

Updated 9:37 p.m. ET

src="http://www.pbs.org/newshour/images/multimedia/infograph_chile.jpg"
alt="Infographic">
It will be a tricky ride up the rescue shaft for the miners. NASA provided a high-calorie liquid to help combat the nausea miners may experience as they twist their way through the nearly 2,050 foot-long shaft. The graphic at right offers more detail on the journey ahead for the miners.

Updated 9:15 p.m. ET

There are still several tests to be done before any miners step foot in the escape pod.

Here’s more from the AP:

A mine rescue expert will be lowered in the capsule and raised again to test it, and then that rescuer and a Navy special forces paramedic will be lowered to the men to prepare them for the trip. Only then can the first miner be pulled to safety. It is expected to take as many as 36 hours for the last miner to be rescued.

Mining Minister Golborne said he hopes the first miner will arrive “before the day ends.”

Updated 8:59 p.m. ET

From the AP: Rescuers had to make last minute adjustments to the system that will enable communications between the miners and the surface during the rescue operation.

More background to help understand the task at hand: BBC News has an animated slideshow that explains how the men would be brought to the surface.

Updated 8:57 p.m. ET

More from the social media front: TweetBeat has a landing page that is collecting tweets on the miner rescue and a live UStream feed of events.

Updated 8:42 p.m. ET

Media coverage of the Chilean rescue operation is happening far and wide tonight. NYT has this roundup of who’s covering what. For how long? That remains to be seen.

As one might imagine, there’s no shortage of reporters on the scene. The Guardian posted this dispatch on the jostle for space today.

Updated 8:34 p.m. ET

The engineering team at the Chile mine site is lowering the capsule into the escape tunnel for a test run.

Updated 7:49 p.m. ET

So who are the 33 trapped Chilean men? NPR has posted this graphic, which includes a breakdown of who the miners are.

And the New York Times is updating this graphic of the men as news emerges of which ones are rescued.

Updated 7:42 p.m. ET

If you’re following the mine rescue operation on Twitter, check out #chilemine and #chile #miners

Posted Tuesday 6:45 p.m. ET

The final stage of a months-long rescue mission to free 33 Chilean miners will begin Tuesday night as they are shuttled to the surface in a narrow steel capsule one-by-one.

The miners have been trapped in an emergency shelter space about 2,050 feet below the surface since Aug. 5, after a collapse in the gold mine they were working in located in the northern Atacama Desert.

We talk to Jonathan Franklin of the Washington Post on Tuesday’s NewsHour. He’s reporting that the first miners are expected to start emerging around 9 p.m. ET.

The rescue capsule, which will travel through a narrow shaft that was drilled from the surface, measures just slightly wider than a human’s shoulders. Dubbed “Phoenix” by rescue workers, the capsule was successfully tested Monday and is equipped with oxygen masks and escape hatches in case the rescue hits an obstacle.

Watch Mining Minister Laurence Golborne describe how rescuers will help bring the miners to the surface.

Each ride up is expected to take about 20 minutes, and authorities expect they will be able to haul up roughly one miner an hour, the AP reports.

Churches across Chile are prepared to ring their bells in celebration when the first miner is extracted, on the request of President Sebastian Pinera.

PBS’ NOVA has been on the ground at the San José mine since Sept. 5 and has been blogging regularly as they shoot a documentary on the rescue that will air within weeks.