Rescue Of Trapped Chilean Miners Under Way

The rescue of the 33 miners trapped underground is still under way, and going remarkably smoothly. The men are being treated on site, then transferred to a local hospital. So far, all of them are in good shape.

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, host:

It's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Mary Louise Kelly.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

And I'm Melissa Block.

All of the miners are out. Rescuers have pulled from the Chilean mine the last of the 33 men who have been trapped down there since early August. The first man was lifted out of the mine around midnight last night, and his fellow miners have been hoisted to safety one after another around the clock since then.

In a moment, we'll hear more about the miners themselves and the challenges of recovering from such an ordeal. First, Annie Murphy has been reporting for us from the mine site, and she has this story.

(Soundbite of cheering)

ANNIE MURPHY: As the red, white and blue Phoenix rescue capsule slid into the earth, everyone in Camp Hope leaned forward in their chairs. Some rocked anxiously. Many repeated blessings under their breath.

(Soundbite of cheering)

MURPHY: And when it emerged about half an hour later, everyone was amazed and delighted.

Florencio Avalos, wearing sunglasses at night to shield his eyes against any possible light damage, stepped out of the rescue capsule and officially entered the world aboveground.

Grinning and weary, he looked half regular miner going home from a very long day at work. And thanks mostly to the shades, half rock star, trying to keep a low profile, which is about what these 33 men have become as the world has followed their story.

For the families of the men who are last in line, the wait was particularly trying. Patricia Lobos waited until the end of the list for her uncle, Franklin Lobos, and tried to stay positive.

Ms. PATRICIA LOBOS: (Foreign language spoken)

MURPHY: There's already a knot in my stomach, she says. They should just get him out now. We can wait a few more hours after all this, because he's still down there.

Mario Gomez came out near the start, and his family was among the first to breathe the sigh of relief. Maria Cortes is Gomez's sister-in-law. She's so overwhelmed that she wrings her hands as she speaks.

Ms. MARIA CORTES: (Through translator) When Mario came out, I was happy and content because, now, we'll have him at home. Now, we'll be able to hug him. And when the very first miner came out, I felt such emotion I cried. The first son had come into the world - because I call all the miners sons now - the first, the second.

MURPHY: People of all stripes have been comparing this rescue to a rebirth. Though the connection seems especially important to the Gomez family, which is deeply religious. Christian guitarists has been accompanying their family throughout the rescue, and Gomez himself put together a makeshift shrine while in the tunnel.

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Group: (Singing in foreign language)

MURPHY: In fact, many of the miners and their families say their spirituality helped them get through the past few months. And the underground rescue has been marked by moments that can't be put into categories shared between all the families, like the arrival of Mario Sepulveda, the second miner to make the trip to the surface.

(Soundbite of cheering)

MURPHY: Once he was aboveground and hugged his wife, Sepulveda, a balding energetic man who became the group's resident emcee during more than two months underground, pulled out a sack of rocks from the mine and started to hand them out to officials, including Chilean President Sebastian Pinera, who greeted all of the men.

(Soundbite of cheering)

MURPHY: As Sepulveda was finally wheeled off on a stretcher, part of the routine established for all the men, he called out to his wife.

Mr. MARIO SEPULVEDA (Miner): (Through translator) So how's the dog?

MURPHY: Camp Hope is gradually dissolving. Families are heading home, the press is packing up shop, and the local government is cleaning. The miners hope to see the place before it's taken down. But in a matter of weeks, it would probably return to something like its former state, a shoddy mine in a lonely piece of desert. But now, the whole world knows it exist.

For NPR News, this is Annie Murphy at the San Jose Mine, Chile.

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