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Chile erupts in joy over inspirational rescue

Last updated on: October 14, 2010 15:35 IST

Chile erupts in joy over inspirational rescue

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Sixty-nine days after the San Jose gold and copper mine collapsed in Chile, the last of the 33 trapped miners was raised from the depths of the earth on Wednesday.

Strapped into a specially-made steel capsule, Luis Urzua, a foreman, stepped out of a torpedo-shaped capsule that lifted him over 2,000 feet to the surface.

It prompted an eruption of applause and cheers that seemed just as heartfelt as the outpouring that followed the emergence of the first miner nearly a day earlier.

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Image: Relatives of miners celebrate after the last miner Luis Urzua was hoisted up to the surface at the San Jose mine in Copiapo on October 13
Photographs: Luis Hidalgo/Reuters
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Urzua was wearing moisture-resistant green coveralls and a sunglass to protect his eyes.

"Thanks to everybody, thanks to the rescuers, thanks to all of Chile and everyone involved in this operation," the New York Times quoted Urzua, as saying.


Image: The last miner to be rescued, Luis Urzua, who is credited with organizing the miners to ration food and save themselves, gestures at the end of the rescue operation at San Jose mine in Copiapo
Photographs: Alex Ibanez-Chilean Presidency/Handout/Reuters
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Chile erupts in joy over inspirational rescue

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Meanwhile, Chilean President Sebastian Pinera called Urzua a "great captain", and said that the miners were an example of "companionship, courage and loyalty".

"You are not the same, and the country is not the same after this. You were an inspiration. Go hug your wife and your daughter," Pinera told Urzua after the completion of the 22 1/2-hour rescue operation.


Image: Trapped miner Daniel Herrera (red hard hat) hugs his wife after reaching the surface to become the 16th to be rescued from the San Jose mine in Copiapo
Photographs: Hugo Infante/Government of Chile/Handout/Reuters
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Chile erupts in joy over inspirational rescue

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Urzua was immediately rushed to a nearby medical centre for examining the condition of his health.

An estimated 700,000 tonnes of rock collapsed inside the 121-year-old mine in the historically significant mining accident on August 5.


Image: Trapped miner Johnny Barrios hugs his girlfriend Susana Valenzuela after reaching the surface to become the 21st to be rescued from the San Jose mine in Copiapo
Photographs: Hugo Infante/Government of Chile/Handout/Reuters
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Chile erupts in joy over inspirational rescue

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Rescue officials led by a senior United States mine engineer had earlier estimated that it would take three to four months to complete the rescue.

However, the rescue exceeded expectations every step of the way, as it turned out to be 69 days and about eight hours.


Image: Relatives of trapped miner Carlos Barrios react while watching a public viewing screen as Barrios became the 13th to be rescued from the San Jose mine in Copiapo
Photographs: Luis Hidalgo/Reuters
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Once the escape tunnel was finished, they estimated that it would take 36 to 48 hours to get all the miners to safety, but as the operation went along all the miners were evacuated in 22 hours and 37 minutes.


Image: Relatives of miners celebrate when the last miner Luis Urzua is hoisted up to the surface at the San Jose mine in Copiapo
Photographs: Luis Hidalgo/Reuters
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Chile erupts in joy over inspirational rescue

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A rescue worker reached the miners early Tuesday night.

Live video taken from the chamber showed the first miner 31-year-old Florencio Avalos, hugging him and within 15 minutes he reached the surface.


Image: Chileans celebrate after the last miner was rescued in Copiapo
Photographs: Mariana Bazo/Reuters
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Chile erupts in joy over inspirational rescue

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US President Barack Obama said that the Chilean mine rescue operation was a tremendous inspirational story as he watched live the great human rescue mission to evacuate 33 workers trapped 2,041-foot underearth.

"This is obviously something that's captivated the world's attention and this rescue is a tribute not only to the determination of the rescue workers and the Chilean government, but also the unity and resolve of the Chilean people who have inspired the world," Obama told media persons at the White House.


Image: Trapped miner Esteban Rojas kneels to pray after reaching the surface as he became the 18th to be rescued from the San Jose mine in Copiapo
Photographs: Hugo Infante/Government of Chile/Handout/Reuters
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Chile erupts in joy over inspirational rescue

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"I want to express the hopes of the American people that the miners who are still trapped underground will be returned home safely as soon as possible," he said.

"Last night, the whole world watched the scene at Camp Esperanza as the first miner was lifted out from under more than 2,000 feet of rock and then embraced by his young son and family. And the tears they shed -- after so much time apart -- expressed not only their own relief, not only their own joy, but the joy of people everywhere," Obama said, adding it was a thrilling moment and we're hopeful that those celebrations duplicate themselves throughout the rest of today.





Image: Chileans celebrate after the last miner was rescued in Copiapo
Photographs: Mariana Bazo/Reuters
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"The NASA team that helped design the escape vehicle, to American companies that manufactured and delivered parts of the rescue drill, to the American engineer who flew in from Afghanistan to operate the drill," Obama said.

Earlier, White House Press Secretary Robert Gates had said Obama watched the rescue operation live. 

"As a parent, to watch a miner's son waiting for him to come out of a mine that he'd been trapped in for almost 70 days, when people for a long time thought they might be lost, was tremendously inspirational," Gibbs said when asked about Obama's reaction to the rescue operation.


Image: A resident cries while watching the live transmission of the rescue operation of the trapped miners, in a public square of Copiapo October 13
Photographs: Mariana Bazo/Reuters
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