Chile was counting down the hours yesterday to the start of a dramatic operation to winch 33 miners to the surface, with a presidential welcome awaiting them after 10 weeks trapped underground.
When the men are hauled out of the earth that has kept them prisoner longer than anybody on record, they will go from humid, dark isolation to a blaze of publicity normally reserved for movie stars or sporting heroes.
More than 1,700 journalists from around the world have turned up to record their salvation, which was scheduled to start at midnight last night and go on for two days.
PHOTO: EPA, HUGO INFANTE/GOVERNMENT OF CHILE HANDOUT
Each of the men is to be slowly winched up from the tunnel they took refuge in after an Aug. 5 collapse in the upper galleries of their mine outside Copiapo. The 622m ascent is almost as high as two Eiffel Towers, one on top of the other.
It will take around 15 minutes to 20 minutes for the metal capsule enclosing each miner to arrive at the surface, and around an hour for the contraption to do a round trip to pick up the next man.
At the camp near the mouth of the rescue shaft, a celebratory vibe was already taking hold. It was certain to go up another notch when Chilean President Sebastian Pinera, accompanied by Bolivian President Evo Morales, were to turn up to participate in the rescue operation.
Thirty-two of the miners are Chilean. One is Bolivian.
“The rescue is even closer than ever,” Pinera said during a trip to Ecuador on Monday. “And I intend tomorrow, Tuesday to be with the families of the 33 miners to share this amazing moment.”
The miners were said to be anxious as their freedom neared.
“They are praying to ease the tension,” said Alberto Segovia, who spoke at the weekend with his trapped brother Dario Segovia via videolink. “He doesn’t want to be the first, because he’s afraid. No one wants to be the first. Can you imagine being brought up 700 meters?”
Andres Sougarret, the head engineer overseeing the rescue operation said possible problems had been looked at and solutions worked out. Falling rocks or damage to the narrow cradle could occur, Sougarret said, but “we’ll have the means to unblock them.”
Though officials have refused to say in what order the men will emerge, they have said the first group will include some of the strongest men. Those with chronic health problems including high blood pressure or respiratory ailments will go next, followed by a final group of healthy miners. Before the rescue begins, two mining experts and two Marine nurses will go into the mine and determine in which order the men will come out.
The narrow cage bringing up the men had been painted in the colors of the Chilean flag and baptized the “Phoenix” to symbolize the rebirth the miners were to experience on rediscovering the surface.
Each will wear medical sensors to monitor stress levels, and a camera and microphone system will keep them in constant contact with officials. Should the capsule become blocked from above, the miner inside can detach the cage and slowly lower themselves back down.
If all goes to plan, though, the miners will be brought out and straight into the care of doctors standing by. Two or three close relatives will be able to see them then, too.
Authorities intend to keep the men under voluntary observation for two days — after which they will be free to exercise their newfound fame.
An Australian university student who has never visited China and has only a modest social media following would seem an unlikely target for the Chinese government. However, when a Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman personally denounced Drew Pavlou at a news conference, it was just the next phase in an extraordinary campaign against the 21-year-old that has fueled concerns over China’s targeting of critics overseas. Pavlou first placed himself in the superpower’s sights when in July last year he organized a small sit-in at the University of Queensland, where he studies, to protest against various Chinese government policies. Since then, the Global
‘ASKED TO MOVE OUT’: Indonesian coast guard personnel argued with a Chinese vessel over territorial claims after it entered the country’s exclusive economic zone An Indonesian patrol ship confronted a Chinese coast guard vessel that spent almost three days in waters where Indonesia claims economic rights and that are near the southernmost part of China’s disputed claims to the South China Sea. The Indonesian Maritime Security Agency on Friday night detected Chinese ship 5204 entering Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in what Indonesia calls the North Natuna Sea. The agency sent a patrol ship that closed within 1km of the Chinese coast guard vessel and they communicated to affirm their position and their nation’s claims to the area, Indonesian Maritime Security Agency head Aan Kurnia said. “We
BEFORE WINTER COMES: Snow cuts off roads into Ladakh for four months or more each year, so the crunch is on to get food, tents and high-altitude equipment to Leh From deploying mules to large transport aircraft, the Indian military has activated its entire logistics network to transport supplies to thousands of troops for a harsh winter along a bitterly disputed Himalayan border with China. In the past few months, one of India’s biggest military logistics exercises in years has brought vast quantities of ammunition, equipment, fuel, winter supplies and food into Ladakh, a region bordering Tibet that India administers as a union territory, officials said. The move was triggered by a border standoff with China in the snow deserts of Ladakh that began in May and escalated in June into hand-to-hand
Since her personal telephone number was posted online, Hong Kong democracy advocate and Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions chairperson Carol Ng has received menacing calls from strangers and been bombarded with messages calling her a “cockroach.” She is not alone. A sophisticated and shady Web site called HK Leaks has ramped up its “doxxing” — where people’s personal details are published online — of Hong Kong democracy advocates, targeting those it says have broken Hong Kong’s National Security Law. Promoted by groups linked to the Chinese Chinese Communist Party and hosted on Russia-based servers, HK Leaks has become the most prominent “doxxing”