The 33 men trapped deep inside a northern Chilean mine were given permission to smoke on Saturday after improvements were made in the air ventilation, officials said.
The miners will receive two packs of cigarettes a day, regional Atacama Governor Ximena Matas said.
“We have sent a number of cigarettes ... to a person who will distribute them, and there should be no difficulties,” he said.
The trapped miners have become national heroes since they were found alive on Aug. 22, 17 days after a mine cave-in in the remote Atacama desert. The miners are trapped some 700m below the surface, making the ongoing rescue mission particularly difficult and drawn out.
They have received supplies — food, water and now cigarettes — through a metal shaft to the surface.
Nicotine patches sent down to help smokers among the trapped miners deal with the lack of cigarettes have not worked, officials said.
The miners were given permission to light up after rescuers in the last 48 hours installed a multi-functional plastic tube that lets them get water, air, and have permanent telephone communication with the surface.
“We are not going to give a pack of cigarettes to each of them, but rather a reasonable amount,” said Jorge Diaz, a medical doctor on the rescue team.
“These are responsible people and we believe the doses that we deliver will be administered well,” he said.
Diaz however said that the miners cannot indiscriminately light up.
“Regardless of how good the ventilation is now, they are still trapped, and the ventilation cannot be optimal,” he said.
Meanwhile rescuers on the surface continued work drilling a shaft to pull out the miners.
The Strata 950 drill, part of the “Plan A” rescue scheme, reached a depth of 260m on Saturday, officials said.
Another drill, a Schramm T-130 and the key part of “Plan B,” reached 268m before a drill bit broke off inside the shaft at mid-week, Chilean Mining Minister Laurence Golborne said. Workers are still trying to pull out the part and resume work, he said.
A third giant drill, part of “Plan C,” is still being assembled, officials said.
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