Copiapo: Drillers have passed the halfway mark in their most advanced evacuation shaft toward 33 men who have been trapped deep underground in a Chilean mine since August, officials said.
The operation, referred to as "Plan B" by rescuers, has dug down 333 meters, more than halfway toward its objective of 630 meters, said Andres Sougarret, the engineer coordinating rescue operations.
The drill has already reached the miners with a tunnel about 30 centimetres in diameter but now is working to more than double its width in order to extract the trapped workers.
Officials have said they are unlikely to be able to start pulling out the men until early November.
The miners have been trapped underground since a part of the mine collapsed on August 05, blocking the exit. A tall, thin cage has been designed to be sent down the bore hole and allow the men to be pulled out one by one.
Two other drilling rigs are also being employed in the effort, with "Plan A" drilling having reached a depth of 548 meters of its 702-meter objective though that tunnel needs to be widened for the eventual rescue.
An oil-drilling rig used in "Plan C”, which is using a wider bore that only requires a single operation, has reached a depth of 156 meters toward its goal of 597 meters, according to Sougarret.
Yesterday, the families of 29 of the workers filed suit against their employer, seeking USD 12 million in damages.
First Published: Friday, October 01, 2010, 11:06