Chile miners to be evacuated soon

Chile miners to be evacuated soon

Health Minister Jaime Manalich set the date of the rescue for Tuesday, though another government official, Mining Minister Laurence Golborne, struck a more cautious tone, saying only that the drill closest to the men trapped some 700 metres underground would reach them within 24 hours.

The drill, the T-130, was 585 metres from the miners' underground shelter early Friday.
"We hope to break through (to the shelter) within the next 24 hours. The speed will depend on how fast the hammer drill can be changed and the drilling velocity; we have to reach the breakthrough point with less velocity," Golborne said.

"We think it will happen tonight or Saturday morning, but we don't have the exact time," he said, adding that after contact is made the tunnel will be analysed to determine if it needs to be lined.

"If not, the timeframe for starting the rescue would be three days, but it could extend to eight days if they decide to (add metal casing to the tunnel). We have a team of geologists to analyse this issue," Golborne said.

But the health minister's prediction had already sparked joy and renewed hope among the relatives.

"It's a very good news, since we were all expecting them to break through first and then give us a date (for bringing the men to the surface)," Lilianet Ramirez, wife of miner Mario Gomez, said.

"I'm very happy ... Supposedly after the breakthrough it was going to take another eight days to get them out, but if that's been moved up I'm happy," Jessica Yanez, wife of Esteban Rojas, said.

The 33 miners were trapped Aug 5 when a landslide caused a tunnel at the San Jose copper and gold mine in northern Chile to collapse above them, but they managed to survive by taking refuge in a large underground shelter.

Rescuers made contact Aug 22 with the trapped miners, who have been receiving food, water, medical supplies and extra oxygen via small bore holes.

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