The miners emerged from their ordeal looking much healthier than had been expected by medical experts and family members.
The operation to lift the 33 miners from the mine, some 2,041 feet below the surface of the earth, took less than 24 hours, after it commenced at midnight on Tuesday. It took approximately 25 minutes to lift out each of the miners in a 13 feet- tall capsule that barely had any shoulder room.
Officials previously estimated that it would take a minimum of four months to rescue to the men but instead it took only 69 days and 8 hours to accomplish the feat. Whereas it was thought that it would take 36-48 hours to bring the men to the surface, all miners were safely above in 22 hours and 37 minutes.
Chilean President, Sebastian Pinera, joined family members and owners of the mine as the men were safely returned. Thousands of Chileans watched the episode unfold, via large screens that were erected in various parts of the country, including the nearby town of Copiapo, where some 3,000 gathered.
It was on 5th August, 2010, when the mine in which the men were working collapsed, with over 700, 000 tons of rock entombing them, nearly a half-mile below the surface.
The last man to be rescued was the supervisor of the group, who kept them together, introducing stiff food rations and discipline, to keep them focused to the task of finding a way out of their ordeal, at a time when their colleagues above ground feared that they were all dead.
Supervisor Luis Urzua said after being rescued that, “We have done what the entire world was waiting for. We had strength, we had spirit, we wanted to fight for our families and that was the greatest thing”.
As the men were freed, crowds waved the Chilean flags, drivers honked their horns, blew vuvuzelas while others yelled, “Long live Chile”.
This was the first time in history that trapped miners were able to survive that long and during the first 17 days, it was not even known if they were still alive.
The rescue event was captured by over 150 media crews from the USA, Russia, UK, Japan, North Korea, Iran and South America. Even Pope Benedict XVI extended hope for the safe return of the men.
Following a series