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Americas

Music, hot meals, and NASA specialists lift miners’ spirits

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-09-02

The arrival of four senior NASA officials and a delivery of hot food and music has lifted the spirits of the 33 trapped miners and their rescuers, despite warnings from the specialists that “false hopes” must be avoided.

AFP - The morale of 33 miners trapped in Chile soared Wednesday after music and hot meals were supplied, and NASA added its experience to keeping them healthy while a rescue drill inched closer.

A new video shot by the miners and broadcast on state television late Tuesday showed the men shaven, wearing clean clothes and listening to a tropical tune.

The figures in the images were a far cry from the haggard, mud-caked, bare-chested miners shown in a first video last week, days after they were located by a probe drill.

The miners have now spent 27 days in the San Jose mine in northern Chile, which collapsed August 5 -- a feat of subterranean survival unprecedented in modern memory.

The only other miners to have spent almost as long trapped underground were three Chinese men rescued in July last year after spending 25 days in a flooded shaft, chewing on coal and surrounded by their 13 dead colleagues.

A giant 30-ton drill has since Monday been boring slowly down to the Chilean miners in an operation estimated to take three to four months to complete.
  
The miners are stuck 700 meters (2,300 feet) below the surface waiting for the machine that can excavate up to 20 meters (65 feet) per day -- and for the initial shaft being drilled to be doubled in diameter to permit each one to be pulled up.
  
The ambitious task, codenamed "Operation San Lorenzo" after a martyred Christian saint, is going on in parallel with a program of careful medical and psychological care for the miners.
  
Water, food and other supplies were being dropped through three fist-sized shafts drilled to the men.
  
On Wednesday, a team of four senior NASA officials was to arrive to lend the US space agency's experience in keeping men sane and healthy during extended periods of isolation.
  
The key is to be honest with the miners and avoid raising "false hopes," NASA's deputy chief medical officer Michael Duncan told Chilean authorities Tuesday in Santiago after the team's arrival.
  
President Sebastian Pinera said his government "will continue to do everything humanly possible" to rescue the miners, and has ordered a back-up drill to the mine to start work in case the main one encounters problems.
  
Authorities have started vaccinating the trapped men against tetanus, diphtheria, flu and pneumonia to prevent outbreaks of disease.
  
A medical report Tuesday said five miners were still having difficulties digesting and psychologically "there are a few cases of sleeping problems."
  
The men have also moved to a drier spot about 300 meters deeper inside the mine because some were developing fungal infections and body sores in the hot, dank area.
  
The miners, who were found alive August 22, have located four sources of water, two of which have been deemed fit for human consumption.
  
They have been able to shave and get a change of clothes. Smokers have been denied cigarettes, but given nicotine patches to help them cope with withdrawal symptoms.
  
In the new video -- which was broadcast without sound -- they looked rested and in good spirits.
  
"They're telling jokes. They point to their boss' Luis Urzua's desk that's nothing more than the hood of one of the pickup trucks down there strewn with papers," Elvira Valdiva, the wife of one of the miners told AFP.
  
The owners of the Chilean mine Tuesday begged for "forgiveness for the anguish" caused to the miners by the collapse.
  
"This is a terrible situation, and we hope that it will soon come to a happy end," Alejandro Bohn, co-chief of the San Esteban mining group, told a parliamentary committee looking into the drama.
  
They denied any negligence on their part in implementing safety regulations at the San Jose mine, near Copiapo, and said all the mine's inspection documents were in order prior to the August 5 cave-in.

 

Date created : 2010-09-01

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