Copiapo (Chile): A powerful mechanical
digger began digging a rescue shaft at a collapsed Chile mine
where 33 men are trapped some 700 meters (2,300 feet) below
ground, a government source said.
The giant, Australian-made "Strata 950" excavator started
drilling the rescue shaft at 10:25 pm (0225 GMT today),
according to the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The operation is taking place at a part of the mine site
that is off-limits to both reporters and the some hundred
relatives of the miners who have established a make-shift camp
at the site since the August 5 cave-in.
The Strata 950 drill will first bore a 33-centimetre
(13-inch) wide pilot hole. This must then be doubled using a
special drill bit to 66 centimeters -- wide enough to lower a
rescue capsule down to pull out the miners one by one.
Expected to take three to four months, the miners will
have to work in shifts around the clock to clear rocks and
debris falling from above, all the time hoping the precarious
operation does not cause another collapse.
Rescuers heard no sign of life from the men for more than
two weeks after the accident, but on August 22 a drill probe
finally reached them and carried up a note reading: "All 33 of
us are well inside the shelter."
The Chilean government has warned that efforts to rescue
them could take between three to four months.
First Published: Tuesday, August 31, 2010, 15:39