Rescue workers in Chile are preparing tubes packed with flashlights, food and medicine after learning that 33 miners trapped for nearly three weeks are still alive in an underground shelter.
Officials cautioned that it could take four months to rescue the workers. But family members cheered as Chilean President Sebastian Pinera held a hand-written note pulled from the mine up for television cameras Sunday.
Written in Spanish in red ink, it read simply: “We are fine in the shelter, the 33 of us.”
The note was tied to a probe authorities had lowered earlier on Sunday.
Miner Mario Gomez also sent up a note to his wife, written on tattered loose-leaf paper, CNN Chile reported.
“Dear Lila, I am well, thank God. I hope to get out soon. Patience and faith. God is great. We are going to get out with God’s help. Tell everyone that I am well.”
// His wife told CNN Chile the note confirmed what she had been saying as she kept vigil outside the mine for weeks.
“I know my husband is fine. I know he’s alive. And I know he’s keeping up all the others in the mine because that’s the kind of person my husband is,” she said.
The workers have been trapped since the copper and gold mine caved in on August 5.
It could take as long as four months to get them out, warned Andres Sougarret, who is in charge of rescue operations.
Rescuers will send microphones down soon in hopes of learning more about the miners’ conditions, he said. And authorities are also planning to send food, medicine and other necessities as needed. Eventually, rescue workers will likely drill a larger shaft, through which the trapped miners could escape.
The miners are thought to be 2,300 feet underground, inside a small shelter that would have had some water and food supplies, CNN Chile said.
Because of the mine’s depth, and the instability caused by the collapse, rescue workers will need to proceed slowly and with caution.
“It’ll take time. But it’s not important how long it takes. What’s most important is that everything ends well,” Pinera said.
The San Esteban mine is located near the town of Copiapo in the Atacama region in northern Chile.