A drill broke through to the cavern holding 33 trapped Chilean miners for 64 days about 8 a.m. local time Saturday morning. It created a shaft just wide enough for them to come up 2,000 feet in theescape capsule, the Los Angeles Times reported. The capsule, built at a Chilean military shipyward, is named for the mythical bird that lives thousands of years and when consumed by fire rises from the ashes.
When a siren sounded indicating the miners' safe haven had been reached, joy spread across the South American nation. CNN reported Family members ran downhill from the tents and RVs of "Camp Hope," carrying Chilean flags. One man who is a relative of a miner, "I feel happiness. I feel tranquil -- the fear is now gone." The mine is at Copiapó in the Atacama Desert, about 500 miles north of Santiago and 40 miles east pf the Pacific coast.
It had been expected it could take four months or more to reach them beneath the copper-gold mines. Even now engineers will dropped a video camera down the length of the shaft to decide whether they need to encase the shaft in metal before using it. That could take three to eight days.
The 500-pound escape capsule, painted the red, white and blue that are Chile’s national colors, can hold one person at a time. It is 24-inches wide and is equipped with oxygen and communication equipment and has wheels installed on the outside. It can hold a person up to 6-feet-four for the 2,300-foot journey.
President Sebastian Pinera called it a blessing.
“We have done everything that technology permits,” said Miguel Fortt, a consultant on underground mining rescues in the Atacama region. “If the Lord doesn’t send us an earthquake, we’ll be O.K," he told the New York Times.
The planning had included the possibility that the miners would have to set off a dynamite charge to get the shaft open to them. And there remains the possibility that as they exit the shaft could become blocked.
The Phoenix story inspired two movies.