Chilean miners to be rescued
05 October 2010
Despite original statements claiming that the 33 miners trapped 700m underground in Chile would not be rescued before Christmas, there are now new hopes that they may be rescued within days, rather than weeks after a dramatic acceleration of the rescue plans. A huge drill has only 160m further to go to reach the men and should break through to the area where the miners are have been trapped underground for two months by the weekend.
Chilean miners to be rescued by weekend
The miners’ families and friends are obviously celebrating the good news, but the rescue operation is now entering the most dangerous stage. When the drill reaches the trapped men, the miners will be closer than ever to freedom. But they still have a long way to go until their actual rescue.
Once the rescue shaft is complete, there is a possibility it may have to be lined with a metal pipe, which will provide a buffer between the mine walls and rescue capsules. However, this lining would take approximately eight days to put in place and implement, and at present there are conflicting views about whether the casing is entirely necessary. A camera will be sent down hole to inspect the integrity of the shaft and determine whether it is imperative to case the entire path to the miners or perhaps only sections.
The plan at this stage is for navy commandos to go down to assess the situation and help the miners use the rescue capsule. The miners will be divided into three groups: the able, the weak, the most able. The most needy men may be evacuated first. Sedatives will be given to the men if necessary to calm them for the journey. Doctors say the miners have started exercising in preparation for the ride. They are also getting training from public relations experts to help them cope with the attention of the world's media once they emerge.
The rescue capsules will be equipped with an oxygen supply, communications equipment, retractable wheels to help it travel up the rescue shaft and an escape hatch in case anything goes wrong. The capsule will use wired communication with the surface, since wireless contact could fail in the mine's depths. Two family members will be allowed inside each container, which are designed to shelter the miners from sunlight and allow doctors to administer glucose and monitor health indicators. Once stabilised, the men will be transported by helicopter to a military base then housed in a public hospital in the city of Copiapo.
The most immediate risk to the miners would be the possibility of damage to their retinas as they face bright sunlight after weeks underground. Miners will also be immunised against common germs on the surface, which they have not been exposed to recently.
The men were trapped by a rockfall at the mine near Copiapo, about 725 km north of the Chilean capital Santiago, on 5th August. Rescuers had almost given up, when they located the miners after 17 days of searching, having survived on meagre rations.
As the rescue effort continued, other workers employed at the mine staged a protest on the surface, complaining that they had not been paid since the accident. Chanting "there are more than 33 of us," about 200 workers marched through the town of Copiapo to demand money they say they are owed.
The company which ran the mine has large debts, and is also facing lawsuits from the relatives of the trapped men.