Friday 21 July 2017

Way clear for first Chilean miners to taste freedom

Fiona Govan at the San Jose mine

THE first of the trapped Chilean miners could be raised from the deep where they have been entombed for 68 days early tomorrow morning following a successful test run of the rescue capsule.

Engineers announced yesterday that they had completed the installation of metal casing to line the first 180 feet of the shaft, and had carried out tests of the rescue capsule.

"We lowered the capsule Phoenix 1 into the shaft to a depth of 610 metres, almost to within reach of the men," said Chilean mining minister Laurence Golborne.

"We are extremely happy with the way it performed and are now installing the necessary equipment to ensure it is safe to begin the rescue."

Two mining experts and two naval medics will be lowered into the mine to oversee the raising of the men to the surface.

The miners were praised for their "selfless attitude" after squabbling over who would be the last to emerge from the chamber where they have been trapped since the mine collapsed on August 5.

While it is not yet clear who will be the first to make the journey, the final three miners to be brought up have been named to end arguments, it was reported.

Selfless

"The selfless attitude of the men shows a really commendable spirit of solidarity and commitment to their friends," Jaime Manalich, Chile's health minister said.

"They were fighting with us because everyone wanted to be at the end of the line, not the beginning."

Authorities announced they had drawn up a provisional list of the order the men would be raised to the surface on 'D-Day' but the final decision would be made by medics.

Four "experienced and healthy men" will be chosen first, followed by a group of 10 identified as "vulnerable" because of medical problems, age or anxiety.

Luis Urzua (54), the shift supervisor whose disciplined leadership was credited with keeping the men alive during their first 17 days without contact from the outside world, will be the final man to make the journey.

"It's the concept of the captain being the last to abandon ship," said one of the rescue team.

The second last man to be raised will be Ariel Ticona (27), whose wife is waiting to introduce him to the daughter she gave birth to in September.

The 33 men have undergone tests to assess their health ahead of the rescue. Officials are concerned about acute hypertension as well as sudden drops in blood pressure because of the speed of the ascent.

The men have been taking aspirin since Sunday to prevent blood clots and will wear a biometric belt that monitors heart rate and body heat. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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