Chilean miners begin to be rescued

by Derrick Johnson on October 13, 2010

After more than two months trapped thousands of feet below ground, the first of 33 Chilean miners emerged late Tuesday night, sparking cause for celebration in Chile and elsewhere around the world. As of noon on Wednesday, 16 of the miners have been released from their subterranean trap where they spent 69 days waiting to be rescued.

The first to make the precarious 16 minute trip of more than 2,000 feet to the surface was 31-year-old Florencio Avalos, who emerged from the torpedo-shaped capsule just after midnight in Chile. The New York Daily News reports that Avalos was quickly embraced by his wife and young son before being whisked away to be examined by medical personnel.

The happiness was not confined to Chile. President Barack Obama addressed the successful rescue early Wednesday, expressing his hope that the remaining miners can make an equally safe egress.

“While that rescue is far from over and difficult work remains, we pray that by God’s grace, the miners will be able to emerge safely and return to their families soon,” President Obama told reporters.

The miners became trapped when an explosion below ground blocked their exit on August 5. It was then 18 days before crews were able to send them hydration gel and medication through a narrow drill hole. At the time, officials estimated they might have had to wait until November of December to be freed. The crew’s shift chief, Luis Urzua was able to keep his workers alive during the two weeks until contact was made by feeding them spoonfuls of tuna once every 48 hours.

While the rescue is certainly a welcome event, experts warn that the transition back to a normal life may be a difficult one to make. MSNBC.com reports that they run the risk of post traumatic stress disorder, and they may suffer some physical effects of living below ground for so long.

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