Chilean officials overseeing rescue efforts to pull out 33 trapped miners in northern Chile say the men could be pulled out by the end of next week.
AFP - The 33 trapped miners in northern Chile were set Tuesday to mark two months underground, as President Sebastian Pinera said he hoped to bring the workers to the surface by the end of next week.
"We're all happy that this miracle has been able to last," head pyschologist Alberto Iturra told AFP after reporting all 33 miners were in an excellent physical and mental condition, despite the strain of being trapped for so long.
Earlier Pinera announced the new goal for their rescue would dramatically move up the previous timeline for freeing them from the mine in which they have been trapped since the August 5 collapse.
"I hope to rescue them before I leave for Europe. It is very important for me to share in this moment," he told reporters ahead of his planned trip starting October 15. "We are very close to rescuing them," he added.
Mines Minister Laurence Golborne previously announced the rescue could take place in the second half of October, several weeks earlier than planned, because drills were making swift progress toward opening a large enough hole to extract them from their emergency shelter 700 meters (2,200 feet) below ground.
Chilean officials and engineers overseeing the complex operation had said in September they would not begin hoisting up the miners until early November. Earlier estimates had said a rescue would not be possible before Christmas.
The workers, who have already broken records for their internment, will be placed one by one in a thin cage specially designed to pull them up via a narrow bore hole being drilled through the earth.
Three digging machines are opening shafts to the underground shelter where the men are trapped. The T-130 is closest, having burrowed down 372 meters (1,220 feet), well past the half-way goal mark of 630 meters (2,067 feet).
The other two drilling machines, the Strata-950 and the huge RIG-421 oil drilling platform, are still far behind in boring a tunnel wide enough -- 60-70 centimeters (24-28 inches) -- for the miners.
Date created : 2010-10-05