CHILEAN miners trapped deep below ground marked a grim milestone yesterday – a full month since a cave-in cut off their escape route to the surface.
But officials warned it may take even longer to rescue them.
On Saturday, the 33 men for the first time got to speak to their families by closed-circuit videolink, which relays images one way only, from the underground shelter to the surface.
The families said they would mark the one-month anniversary of the August 5 cave-in sounding horns and whistles at 2.30pm (7.30pm Irish time) yesterday.
“We’ve also got songs for them,” Elizabeth Segovia, whose brother Dario is underground, told reporters.
Over the last month the miners have become national heroes and symbols of survival. In Chile and abroad, audiences are following their progress in minute detail.
Rescuing the miners – 32 Chileans and one Bolivian – could take up to four months, leaving them to survive some 700 meters (2,300 feet) below ground potentially until Christmas.
A 30-ton drill that can excavate up to 20m (65ft) per day began work Monday.
This is the primary rescue route but engineers have also two back-up options.
The first involves a faster drill. It will initially be used to widen the supply shaft so that larger items can be sent down, and potentially further enlarged to provide a quicker exit route for the miners.
The second option involves a football-pitch-size oil drilling platform, which Pinera said was expected to begin work on a third shaft by September 18 – Chile’s Independence Day.
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