Rescue shaft reaches trapped miners

By Cesar Illiano ,Reuters

COPIAPO, Chile — Chilean rescuers on Saturday finished drilling an escape shaft for 33 miners trapped deep underground after a cave-in over two months ago, triggering cheers and tears from relatives on the surface. Rescue workers jumped for joy as the drill pushed through the last inches of a nearly 2,050-foot-long (625-meter-long) shaft they have drilled down to free the men, live television footage showed. Relatives of the miners ran up the side of the hill above the mine waving Chilean flags. Relatives and friends hugged and kissed as news spread the shaft was finished, and a bell rang out and horns sounded in the tent settlement dubbed “Camp Hope” erected at the mine. Some waved balloons, others sobbed in elation. “I’m so happy, I’m going to have my son back!” cried Alicia Campos, whose son Daniel Herrera is among the trapped. It will still take days to winch them to the surface one at a time in special capsules just wider than a man’s shoulders, in one of the most complex rescue attempts in mining history. Mining Minister Laurence Golborne said rescuers would decide later on Saturday how much of the inside of the shaft they will line with metal tubing, and when they will likely start the evacuation. Golborne has previously said it would take between three and 10 days to start evacuating the miners once the shaft was finished. The miners themselves must also conduct a controlled explosion down in the mine to make sure there is room for the escape capsules to emerge below. Relatives and friends of the trapped miners have held candlelight vigils at the accident-plagued gold and copper mine in the far northern Atacama desert since the Aug. 5 collapse, and will stay put at the mine until the men are pulled out. “I’m so happy I’ll soon be able to hug my son,” said Norma Lague, whose 19-year-old son Jimmy Sanchez is trapped. “I’m going to tell him I love him, I’m going to touch him and listen to him.”