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Miners rescue in Chile to begin tonight

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After surviving for 68 days in a dark and humid copper-gold mine half a mile below the sands of the Atacama Desert in Chile, officials say the first of 33 miners is expected to be lifted out before midnight tonight in what has become the longest mine rescue in history.

The rescue has been made possible after workers achieved a literal break through Saturday as one of three drills carved a tunnel to where the miners, ages 19 to 63, have taken refuge.

If everything goes according to plan, survivors will begin loading into a specially designed, 6-foot, 4-inch tall chamber let down by a large crane through the artificial shaft. Once aboard, miners will be hoisted 2,000 feet to freedom.

The rescue chamber is strapped with communication equipment, an oxygen supply and retractable wheels to help glide the contraption through the burrow. It also sports an escape hatch in case something goes wrong.

The 24-inch wide capsule reportedly takes 20 minutes to reach its destination, and an hour to make the round trip. Rescue workers hope to free all men within 48 hours.

There are concerns as to the physical toll the rescue effort will play on the miners. But medical professionals at the site say they are taking precautionary measures to help prevent problems arising from possible stress induced by the rescue process.

Also, paramedics and mining experts will first be lowered to evaluate and supervise the miners’ ride to the top. The initial four fished out will be the fittest of the 33 miners. In case mishaps occur, these men are most able to weather the storm, as well as tell the ensuing miners what to expect.

The next ten will be the sickest of the bunch. These miners are dealing with issues ranging from dental and respiratory infections to skin lesions caused by the dense humidity.

Once the survivors have surfaced, they’ll be ushered to a hospital.

For nearly 70 days, the only contact the miners have had with anyone has been through narrow drill holes where food, water and medicine have been delivered.

Photo by User:DXR2k8 via Wikimedia Commons.

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