More than half of the 33 Chilean miners who have been trapped underground in the San Jose mine for more than two months have arrived at the surface in a special rescue capsule to cheers and tears of joy from friends, family and onlookers.
AFP - Camp Hope, the tent city at the entrance to the mine where the Chile rescue drama was unfolding, lived up to its name Wednesday -- and also that of solidarity.
The families of the 33 miners being winched out of their two-month-long nightmare told AFP all of them -- even those who had already seen their prayers answered with the salvation of their loved one -- wanted to stay put until the last man was out.
"Things are going extraordinarily well."
It was a show of faith, and of the sense of unity that has grown between them as strong as that experienced by the miners trapped below ground.
"The first to come out weren't part of our family, but even so it was deeply moving. It may be that we all will stay here from the first to the last," said Javier Galleguillos, brother of the 11th miner pulled to safety, Jorge Galleguillos.
The Galleguillos family shared their wait for Jorge with the clan of two miners who followed soon after, those of Carlos Barrios and Victor Zamora.
Cheers and applause greeted each rescue, though tension that ran under the first few extractions had faded as confidence grew that everything would turn out well for all the men.
"It's reassuring to see everything working well," Javier Galleguillos said.
Edwin Mitamita had already seen his friend, Bolivian miner Carlos Mamani, saved. But he, too, said he intended to stay to the last.
"I'm remaining here until the last one comes up," he said.
Although around half the 33 miners had been rescued by Wednesday afternoon, not one tent in Camp Hope had been dismantled.
One tent, that of the family of the first miner to be rescued, Florencio Avalos, was missing, however.
It had been toppled and trampled early Wednesday when hundreds of journalists crowded into it to try to get an interview with the frightened relatives.
But the Avalos family were sticking around. They were waiting for their other son, Renan, who had been working with Florencio and who was still among the miners to be brought up.
"I'm going to the hospital to speak with him (Florencio), but afterwards I'll be back. We're going to stay until the last," the father, Alfonso Avalos, said.
"Between the families, and other people here, there are good relations. They have become good friends," he said.
The common purpose and shared travail of the families started after the August 5 collapse of the mine in Chile's northern Atacama desert.
Although officials believed the miners had probably perished, the families did not give up hope, prompting both the probe drill that eventually found the men alive 17 days later, and the name of their camp where the relatives set up vigil.
"It's a very strong, very special relationship with people who we didn't know before. Thats going to tough to give up, but each one has to resume their lives, even if I think we'll all stay in contact," said Rossana Gomez, daughter of the oldest miner, Mario Gomez, 63, who was among the rescued.
That desire to keep in touch seemed widespread among those in Camp Hope.
"Their biggest concern is sticking together, even though they come from different parts of Chile. They want to stay united after the rescue," explained Alejandro Pino, an official with Chile's Work Safety Association who spoke with the families each day.
SLIDESHOW: Chile Miners Rescue
Aug. 5 - The San Jose gold and copper mine, 800 km north of Santiago in the Atacama desert, collapses. Thirty-three miners are trapped 700 metres beneath the surface. (Photo: AFP)
It is a landslide that causes the collapse of the mine, trapping the 33 miners (32 Chileans, 1 Bolivian). (Photo: AFP)
The missing miners manage to pass up a message scribbled on a piece of paper: "We're fine, thirty-three, in the shelter", to the relief of family members. (Photo: AFP)
Aug. 26 - The world sees the first images of the trapped miners filmed by a camera lowered through a guide hole. (Photo: AFP)
The miners take refuge in an underground airspace about 1.5 km long. They survived by drinking water run-off, sharing cans of tuna and drinking a half-glass of milk every other day. (Photo: AFP)
Aug. 30 - Drilling begins on a relief well. The first tunnel, 33 cm in diameter, is tested and later expanded to 66 cm. (Photo: AFP)
Oct. 9 - A relief well, dubbed "Plan B", reaches 622 metres down. Rescue, now a near-certainty, is announced as being only days away. (Photo: AFP)
Juan Illanes was the third miner rescued after 69 days spent underground. Upon his release, he is transferred to a hospital for medical examination. (Photo: Flickr, Hugo Infante)
Juan Illanes, the third miner hoisted up safely, hugs Chilean President Sebastian Pinera. (Photo: Flickr, Hugo Infante)
Mario Sepulveda Espina, the second saved miner, greets the cameras. (Photo: Flickr, Hugo Infante)
Mario Sepulveda Espina does a celebratory walkabout before being taken to hospital for preliminary examinations. (Photo: Flickr, Hugo Infante)
Laurence Golborne, the minister of mines, and Chilean President Sebastian Pinera celebrate while watching the first successful rescues. (Photo: Flickr, Hugo Infante)
Jimmy Sanchez, 19, became the fifth miner rescued by the capsule. (Photo: Flickr, Hugo Infante)
Carlos Mamani, 23, was the fourth miner rescued. (Photo: Flickr, Hugo Infante)
Mario Gomez, 59, was the oldest miner rescued. (Photo : Flickr, Hugo Infante)
Jorge Galleguillos, 55, receives an embrace from Bolivian President Evo Morales after exiting the mine. (Photo : Flickr, Hugo Infante)
Date created : 2010-10-13