Photo: Mario Sepulveda Celebrates
Last nights rescue was broadcast live to the entire world with 1600 media people covering the event. Cheers erupted as the first of the miners reached the surface, since then 14 miners have ascended from the mine.
A beaming Chilean President Sebastian Pinera embraced the men as they stepped out of the torpedo shaped capsule. “No one ever lost faith; no one ever compromised or gave up. We made it happen,” Pinera said after Avalos made it to the surface.
Rescue worker Manuel Gonzalez reached the miners at 11:35pm Chilean time last night. Within 15 minutes, Florencio Avalos was on his way to the surface. In a matter of 16 minutes Avalos reached the top to be followed 59 minutes later by Marion Sepulveda. The youngest miner, 19-year-old Jimmy Sanchez was the fifth to be rescued. Pinera said rescuers were would “work without rest” until all of the trapped miners were freed.
The ninth miner to surface was at 63 the oldest miner, Mario Gomez. Gomez came up about an hour later and dropped to his knees and bowed his head in prayer. His wife, Lilianette Ramirez, pulled him up from the ground and embraced him. Gomez suffers from silicosis, a lung disease common to miners, and has been on antibiotics and bronchial inflammation medicine.
The Miners made it clear that the last miner out would be 54-year-old Luis Urzua. He was the shift chief when an explosion caused the mine collapse on Aug. 5 - and is credited with keeping his men in line amid the darkness and despair. “We had to be strong,” Urzua said in a phone interview with The Guardian of London earlier Tuesday. “I hope to never live again like this, but that’s the life of a miner.” Urzua kept his colleagues alive by doling out to each miner just a spoonful of tuna every 48 hours until help could arrive. He said that before he goes up, he’d try to clean up the space in which they have been living. “We don’t have any place to put the garbage,” he said.
When the last man surfaces, a national crisis will end for Chile that began when 700,000 tons of rock collapsed Aug. 5, sealing the 33 in the lower reaches of the mine. For 17 days after that, no one even knew whether the miners had survived.
“This rescue operation has been so marvelous, so clean, so emotional that there was no reason not to allow the eyes of the world — which have been watching this operation so closely — to see it,” a beaming Pinera told a news conference after Avalos was brought to the surface.