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Home / Articles / News / World /  Trapped Chilean miners confirmed alive after more than 14 days
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Monday, August 23,2010

Trapped Chilean miners confirmed alive after more than 14 days

By McClatchy-Tribune News Service

SANTIAGO, Chile — Miners who have been trapped for more than 14 days in a copper mine in Chile's Atacama Desert are alive, President Sebastian Pinera said Sunday.

The 33 miners were found together, rescue workers said after the workers passed a note reading, "Here are 33 people. We are all alive," through a small hole drilled by rescuers.

Pinera expressed his joy at the news. "It came out of the depths of the mine. It said that we are alive, we are together and we hope that we will again see the sunlight and be able to hug our families," he said.

As the news of the miners' survival reached the surface, family members applauded, cried and fell into each others' arms with joy. Many dubbed the news a miracle.

"Today all of Chile is crying with joy and emotion," Pinera said.

The workers have been trapped 700 meters (2,296.5 feet) underground since August 5 in a mine in San Jose de Copiapo, some 800 kilometers (497 miles) north of Santiago, after the shaft they were working in collapsed.

Several further collapses frustrated rescue efforts, and authorities had last week unofficially expressed their fear that the miners may have died.

The note, written in red ink, was the first sign of life and unleashed immediate joy among the family members, friends and neighbors gathered outside the mine. Hundreds broke into spontaneous singing of the Chilean national anthem and waved flags.

"I have never been so proud to be a Chilean as I am today," Pinera said.

A video camera was later lowered into the mine and Pinera was able to see the miners.

"I saw them five minutes ago with my own eyes on the video camera," he said. He described seeing eight or nine miners, some of whom waved and appeared to be in good health.

Gaspar Quintana, Catholic bishop of Copiapo, called for a special mass to thank God for the news.

All previous efforts to reach the miners, even through holes just a few centimeters (no more than an inch) in diameter to provide them with food and water, had failed.

But it could still be weeks, or even months, before the miners can be safely brought to the surface because a giant boulder is blocking access to the trapped men.

However, now that their exact location is known, rescuers can begin to widen the hole into the chamber in order to provide them with food and water.

The miners were also able to send up other messages after contact was established. Miner Mario Gomez wrote, "I'm doing well, thank God. I hope to soon be out of here. Patience and belief. God is good and with his help we will be able to come out of this mine alive, even if we must wait months."

The accident, the worst of its kind in a decade in Chile, has prompted debate about working conditions for miners in small and medium-sized mining fields, which sometimes lack the necessary safety mechanisms.

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(c) 2010, Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH (Hamburg, Germany).

Visit dpa on the Internet at http://www.dpa.de/English.82.0.html

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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