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Four months needed to rescue miners

world Updated: Aug 23, 2010 23:59 IST

AP
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For 33 men found alive after 17 days trapped deep in a copper and gold mine, the toughest challenge now may be preserving their sanity during the months it may take to carve a tunnel big enough for them to get out.

Chileans were euphoric on Sunday after a narrow drill broke through 2,257 feet (688 meters) of solid rock to reach an emergency refuge where the miners had gathered.

The trapped men quickly tied two notes to the end of a probe that rescuers pulled to the surface, announcing in big red letters: “All 33 of us are fine in the shelter.”

“Today all of Chile is crying with excitement and joy,” President Sebastian Pinera said at the mine.

Rescuers said it could take as long as four months, until around Christmas, to carve a second shaft some 27 inches (68 centimetres) in diameter, wide enough for the miners to be pulled up one by one.

For now, there is a limit to what can be sent down to the miners as their lifeline is a narrow shaft just eight centimeters (three inches) in diameter.

The men already have been trapped underground longer than all but a few miners rescued in recent history. Last year, three miners survived 25 days trapped in a flooded mine in southern China.