Country struggles with mining tragedy while still recovering from earlier earthquake.
|The rescue cage was hailed with cheers of “Chi, Chi, Chi, le, le, le. Viva Chile!” on Saturday [AFP]|
The first of three rescue capsules specially built to lift out 33 miners trapped since early August has arrived at the San Jose mine in Chile.
The man-size steel capsule, which was delivered on Saturday, will be used to pull the miners out one by one once one of the three rescue holes being drilled reach the men. The government says that should happen by early November or earlier if all goes well.
Laurence Golborne, the mining minister, and about a dozen family members of the trapped miners tried out the capsule, a tube made of steel mesh and sheets that is big enough to hold one person.
“I’m very excited,” Alberto Segovia, whose brother is trapped in the mine, told Al Jazeera. He was among those who stepped inside the custom-made capsule to test it out.
“I was imagining that I was my brother coming out of the mine. It’s very exciting.”
The capsule is nearly three metres tall on the outside. Inside, the space is 1.90 metre high and about 53 centimetres across. A microphone inside will allow each miner to stay in touch with those inside and outside the mine while being pulled up. Engineers said that the entire rescue operation will last longer than 24 hours.
Two rescuers will be lowered into the mine to help each miner make the journey to the surface.
The bottom of the capsule holds three tanks of compressed air – 40 per cent oxygen and 60 per cent nitrogen. Jaime Manalich, the health minister, said that that was enough air to allow for 90 minutes of breathing, sufficient for the caged journey from the belly of the mine to the surface.
Meanwhile, three drilling machines continued tunnelling their way down to the men. “The machines are working normally. There are no problems,” said Golborne, the mining minister.
Of the three, the Strata-130 offers the earliest chance at a rescue. On Saturday it reached 175 metres down as it widened an earlier guide shaft to the adequate size for the men.