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Mission accomplished: All 33 Chilean miners freed

The last of the Chilean miners has been raised from deep beneath the earth, ending the amazing rescue at the San Jose mine in just under 22 hours.

All 33 men have now been delivered from the longest underground entrapment in history.

The foreman who held the group together when they were feared lost was the last man out. Luis Alberto Urzua was hoisted to safety in a joyous climax to a flawless rescue that captivated the world

The intricately-planned rescue moved with remarkable speed - and flawless execution, hauling up miner after miner in a cramped cage through a narrow hole drilled through 2,000 feet of rock. The 33 men spent more than 69 days trapped in the lower reaches of the mine after a huge collapse of rock blocked their way out on August 5.

When Mr Urzua stepped out of the capsule, he hugged and shook hands with Chilean president Sebastian Pinera and said they had prevailed over difficult circumstances. With the last miner by his side, the president led the crowd in singing the national anthem.

One by one throughout the day, the men had emerged to the cheers of exuberant Chileans and before the eyes of a transfixed world. The operation picked up speed as the day went on, but each miner was greeted with the same boisterous applause from rescuers.

They rejoined a world intensely curious about their ordeal and certain to offer fame and jobs. Previously unimaginable riches awaited men who had risked their lives going into the unstable gold and copper mine for just over £1,000 a month.

The miners made the smooth ascent inside a capsule called Phoenix - 13ft tall, barely wider than their shoulders and painted in the white, blue and red of the Chilean flag. It had a door that stuck occasionally, and some wheels had to be replaced, but it worked exactly as planned.

Beginning at midnight Tuesday local time and sometimes as quickly as every 25 minutes, the pod was lowered nearly half a mile to where 700,000 tons of rock had collapsed and entombed the men 69 days before. The six rescuers who descended into the mine were also later hoisted to safety.

No-one in recorded history has survived as long trapped underground. For the first 17 days, no-one even knew whether they were alive. In the weeks that followed, the world was captivated by their endurance and unity.

PA Media

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