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Chile mine rescue: As it happened

Published: 9:29AM Wednesday October 13, 2010 Source: ONE News

tvnz.co.nz covered the rescue of the 33 miners from a Chilean mine live as the historic events unfolded.

4.39pm: Chile's President Sebastian Pinera, speaking at the top of the rescue shaft, says: "We are so proud of the miners, of the families and of the Chilean rescue team." He then closes the hatch, effectively closing the mine for good.

4.33pm: FINAL RESCUE WORKER REACHES THE SURFACE. The rescue operation at the San Jose mine is over in 24 hours. There are loud cheers and clapping for a final time. The incredible 69 days of agony and now ecstasy have come to an end. The 33 miners are alive and largely in remarkably good health and their rescuers have completed their task safely and more quickly than expected.

4.22pm: The final rescue worker opens the capsule, waves to the camera, bows and punches the air before climbing into the capsule, to a word of warning to "be careful" from above. There is a short pause and the capsule is then lifted up, leaving the workshop empty after 69 days.

4.20pm: Pictures from inside the mine show the last remaining rescue worker waiting for the rescue capsule to return and pick him up, ending the operation. The capsule has just appeared.

4.06pm: The fifth rescue worker has made it to the top. It is confirmed there is still one more rescue worker underground.

3.51pm: A reminder of some of the key points from the miners' ordeal and rescue:
Chile miners: Timeline
Chile miners: Q and A

3.42pm: Another rescue worker has now reached the surface. There is some confusion as to whether one or two rescuers remain underground.

3.28pm: All the rescued miners have serious dental infections, some have eye problems and one has pneumonia, the BBC reports.

3.16pm: The third of the six rescue workers has now reached the surface to the sound of cheers and whistles. He shakes hands with fellow workers and receives thanks for his work underground.

2.53pm:  A second rescue worker has now surfaced.

2.40pm: The first of six rescue workers still in the mine has now been pulled out of the shaft and is on the surface.

2.36pm: BBC reports that celebrations have erupted on the streets of Copiapo, with cars tooting horns and waving flags in the town's centre.

2.25pm: Chile's President Pinera gives a speech at the site: "I want to say we did it the Chilean way. That means we did it right, with unity, with hope and with faith.

"I want to tell him [last man out Luis Urzua] that he was a boss that made us proud, he gave us words of encouragement.

"And also I would like to thank the families of all the miners who kept their faith ... they gave everything through these 69 days.

"Today, Chile is not the same country that we had 69 days ago. The miners are not the same, they came back stronger, but Chile's not the same. I think Chile's more stronger and unified than ever and Chile's more respected in the world.

"I would like to thank especially God who was with us and tell him that I think today Chile is ready for great things. Viva Chile.

"When I saw the face of the last miner to come out of the mine I just felt these feelings as every Chilean is feeling. There will be celebrations in all cities in Chile, but the most important one of all is the one that we're celebrating in our hearts.

"We told you the first day, those who are responsible will have to assume responsibility for this. We need to improve our systems, our attitudes, our procedures ...this is something that we owe to all the Chileans.

"Chile was in the heart of the world and we showed the best of Chile

"May god bless our country."

2.17pm:
President Pinera says to Urzua "stay in touch" and says the country will be changed forever.

2.09pm: Urzua jokes with the crowd about the "longest shift of his life"

2.02pm: Everyone around the rescue area erupts into singing a stirring rendition of the national anthem, as champagne is sprayed around. There's more embracing as the anthem ends.

1.55pm LAST MAN RESCUED. Luis Urzua has been brought to the surface. A tearful President Pinera says he is proud of each and every one of the miners. "I want to thank God also because he has been with us. And I want to ask you also in the name of the engineers and the doctors, we are going to sing from the bottom of our hearts the national anthem." Urzua and Pinera embrace. Urzua says to him "I hand the shift over to you and hope this never happens again. I am proud to be Chilean."

1.52pm: There is clapping and singing on the surface in anticipation for the last miner, Luis Urzua, to emerge.

1.40pm: An underground camera shows Urzua and the rescuers hugging in anticipation for the end of the rescue mission.

1.39pm: Luis Urzua, the metaphorical captain of the ship, will be the last miner to be rescued. The fifty-four-year old was the shift foreman and was the first to make contact with the outside world when communication was established. He has great topography skills and managed to draw maps of the mine layout for rescuers.

1.28pm 32nd man rescued. Ariel Ticona is back on land. Ticona is ecstatic and hugs his wife and then the President who tells him his "beautiful" daughter is waiting for him. He then holds up a telephone. "This is the phone that established communication to the ground for the first time and this phone is made in Chile, " he says.

1.18pm: The next miner out will be Ariel Ticona, 29. Ticona's wife gave birth while he was trapped in the mine, which he watched via video-link. He has two other children.

1.02pm 31st miner rescued: Pedro Cortez is back on land and greeted by his small daughter, who is crying. "Welcome back to civilisation," one of the rescuers says. Presdident Pinera's wife greets him and says "congratulations for all that you have done."

12.49pm: Pedro Cortez will be the 31st miner to be rescued. The 25-year-old is an acoustics expert who joined the mine with his childhood friend, Carlos Bugueno. Bugueno was the 23rd man to be rescued.

12.39pm: BBC reports that a massive street party is expected in the streets of Copiapo once the final miner, foreman Luis Urzua, is out.

12.37pm 30th miner rescued. Raul Bustos has surfaced. He looks a bit nervous and says he can't see anything because of his goggles. He hugs and kisses his wife and then greets the rescue team. President Pinera and his wife greet Bustos. The first lady says "you have no idea what this signifies for everybody. You can be at peace now." As he makes his way to the stretcher, his wife steals one last kiss.

12.22pm: Forty-year-old Raul Bustos will be the next miner to be rescued. He moved to the mine with his wife and two children in the aftermath of the 8.8 magnitude earthquake that hit Chile on February 27. He had never been inside the mine until the day of the collapse.

12.13pm 29th man rescued. Juan Aguilar has made it to the surface. President Pinera tells him "we are very proud of you". He waves as he is taken away on a stretcher.

12.02pm: The BBC is talking to President Pinera, who says the government has to take the blame for the mine collapse. He says the rescue operation cost "many millions".

11.57am: The next miner up will be 49-year-old Juan Aguilar. He is a supervisor in the mine and has two children. He has been mining for 19 years.

11.50am: It's 7.50pm in Chile and nightfall is approaching. The remaining miners should be rescued by midnight, or 4pm NZ time.

11.44am 28th man rescued. Richard Villarroel is at the top. He smiles and raises the Chilean flag. The President greets him, saying "it must be great to feel the fresh air on your cheek". His little sister, Antonia, breaks down in tears as he hugs her.

Five men left to be rescued now.

11.42am: Mining Minister Laurence Golborne is chatting with Villaroel's family. Golborne has been at the mine for the entirety of the rescue mission.

11.34am: The next man to be rescued will be Richard Villarroel, 27. Villarroel never told his mother he worked at the mine, despite working there for two years. His girlfriend is expecting a child in November.

11.17am 27th miner rescued. Franklin Lobos is back on the surface. He is greeted by his very excited teenage daughter who is standing with Laurence Golborne, Chile's mining minister. As he surfaces he kissses and hugs his daughter, who gives him a signed football and says, "I love you dad, I love you". He then embraces Golborne and the rescuers. He tells the rescuers "if it wasn't for you, we would not be saved." He holds the football above him as he is taken away on the stretcher.

10.58am: Next up is Franklin Lobos, 54. Lobos was a professional football player in the local leagues before he became a miner. He has two daughters.

Lobos was one of the two miners who credited a white butterfly as saving his life. They were driving a truck deep into the mine when they stopped to look at the butterfly.

10.51am 26th man rescued. Claudio Acuna is back above land. He hugs his fiance and two-year-old daughter, who is crying and yelling. Presdient Pinera greets Acuna and says "welcome to life". As he is put on his stretcher he is wrapped in a Chilean flag.

Acuna spent his 34th birthday in the mine, which was on September 9th.

10.34am:  The 26th man to be rescued will be Claudio Acuna, 34. He has a fiance and a two-year-old daughter. He moved to the mine ten years ago.

10.31am: CNN says when each of the miners surface, they have their fingerprints taken to confirm their identity.

10.24am: It will now be about 7-8 hours until the operation is finished.

10.24 25th man rescued. Renan Avalos arrives at the surface. The 29-year-old looks elated and embraces two women, then shakes hands and hugs all the rescuers standing around the shaft enntrance. He is wearing a t-shirt which said "gracias Senor," meaning "thank you Lord".

10.14am: Chile's health minister Jaime Manalich says some of the miner's dental problmes are so bad they will need to be treated under general anaesthetic. But he says the miners' overall health was "more than satisfying".

10.07am: The 25th miner to be rescued will be Renan Avalos. Avalos's brother Florencio Avalos was the first to be rescued. The brothers left the grape harvesting industry four months ago to join the mine.

9.58am 24th miner rescued. Jose Henriquez is back above land. He smiles and waves to the crowd. He hugs his wife, Blanca Hettiz Berrios, who is nearly in tears and yells 'bravo!'.

It is now only taking about ten minutes for the capsule to make it to the surface.

9.53am: Chile's health minister Jaime Manalich has revealed that one of the miners is suffering from acute pneumonia. The identity of the miner has not been revealed.

9.47am: Awaiting rescue of the 24th miner, Jose Henriquez. He is making his way up the shaft now. Fifty-four year old Henriquez has 33 years experience working in mines. He plays the guitar and accordion and acted as a spiritual leader in the mine.

9.33am 23rd man rescued. Carlos Bugueno has been brought to the surface. Bugueno was a pigeon handler who joined the mines with his childhood friend, Pedro Cortez, who is also trapped. He is greeted by his mum. Ten miners to go now.

9.22am Carlos Bugueno, 27, will be the next miner up. The winch is moving so he's on the way.

9.09am Up to three family members are allowed to meet each miner. They are then separated again while the men go to a triage centre for medical assessment. Then when all the men are up they will also all meet together. Appararently there was some debate a few days ago about who would come up last, as that person would have the world record for the longest time underground. The plan is still for it to be the team leader, Luis Urzua, like the captain would be the last to leave a ship.

9.05am 22nd miner rescued. Samuel Avalos looks well. Gives a peace sign and a wave. Kisses a woman who says "I love you, I love you." 11 miners to go. The Chilean government is maintaining its live webcam and pictures for the world to see.

9.04am The 22nd miner is the gas monitor from the mine, 43-year-old Samuel Avalos. He'll be on his way soon.

9.00am A relative of the 22nd miner is approaching the mine hole for his arrival. CNN says "I daren't say a wife" after earlier assuming that the woman who met Barrios was his wife, when it was his mistress. 

8.50am Background to 21st miner Yonni Barrios : Barrios Rojas came to attention after he used his first-aid training to treat sick workmates trapped underground with him. He also vaccinated himself and the men against flu and pneumonia. But his image took a turn for the worse after his wife discovered her husband's infidelity as she stood amongst the crowd of miners' family and friends at the vigil. She discovered the affair when she heard Susana Valenzuela shouting her husband's name. At the time, Marta Salinas said she was determined to keep her husband's love.
"Barrios is my husband. He loves me and I am his devoted wife. This woman has no legitimacy," she said.
But Valenzuela, who met Barrios at a training course five years ago, also vowed to stand by for his rescue, saying "we are in love. I'll wait for him".
Valenzuela claimed the 50-year-old miner was planning to leave his wife for her.

8.40am It's been clarified that it was actually Yonni Barrios' mistress Susana Valenzuela not his wife, who greeted him, as his wife Marta Salinas refused to come to the mine. The women had previously met at a vigil held outside the mine.

8.31am 21st man rescued. Yonni Barrios Rojas, 50, is up. His first word is "colleague" to his rescuers. He is very calm. Yonni Barrios assumed the role of chief paramedic underground because of his nursing experience, gaining the nickname of  Dr House after the US show House that's also popular in Chile.

8.07am Next up to be rescued is Yonni Barrios Rojas. His wife happily chats and listens to the rescue worker as he explains how she will see him in the next few minutes and what will happen after her husband surfaces.

7.59am 20th man rescued. Dario Segovia, 48, arrives safely on the surface. Sunglasses on, he appears well as his wife enthusiastically takes pictures of him. Dario, a family man, likes to write letters. He wrote avidly to his sister about his ordeal underground. His sister believes that through this experience, Dario has found God.

7.47am The capsule has closed at the bottom of the mine and Dario Segovia is on his way up. Dario's wife has hugged the rescuers in anticipation.  Dario is the second generation of his family to be trapped in a mine. His father, who was trapped for a week, began taking him down to the mines when he was 8 years old. His sister is the unofficial 'mayor' of Camp Hope, a group camping on the entrance surface made up of family, friends and supporters of the trapped miners below.

7.45am Rescuers are being very careful about the number of family the miners receive upon reaching the surface in order not to emotionally overload them.

7.28am 19th man rescued. Pablo Rojas Villacorta, 45, (the 19th miner) has surfaced. Pablo's 21-year old son is one of the first to hug his father, elated to see him. Pablo Rojas handled the coming and going of packages for the miners below the ground. He began working in the mine five months before the August 5 collapse to help put his son through medical school. His father died a week before the accident. There's now 14 miners to go.

7.15am The 19th miner, Pablo Rojas Villacorta, has entered the capsule. The next miners will be, according to the list, Dario Segovia, Yonni Barrios, Samuel Avalos, Carlos Bugueno, Jose Henriquez, Renan Avalos, Claudio Acuna, Franklin Lobos, Richard Villarroel, Juan Aguilar, Raul Bustos, Pedro Cortez, Ariel Ticona, Luis Urzua.

6.55am A cousin of the 18th miner, a 45-year-old, will be the 19th miner to be rescued. 15 others remain to be rescued, along with several rescue workers who went down.

6.53am A dressmaker from Texas told CNN she is making a dress for the marriage of Jessican and Esteban. Rojas sent the letter to his wife of 25 years asking her to renew their vows while he was in the mine. She accepted in a short phonecall to him and asked him if she should buy the dress now, but he wanted her to wait until they got out and they could buy it together. The couple has three children and two grandchildren. Rojas's small grandson Bryan says he didn't think his grandfather would come out alive at first.

6.49am 18th man rescued. Esteban Rojas, 44, has asked his wife Jessica to renew their marriage vows. He exited and said a prayer before dropping to his knees and hugging Jessica. His wife, in tears, clutched a cloth covered in religious images. Rojas looks a little weaker than some of the others and is slow moving.

6.41am Still awaiting the arrival of Esteban Rojas, the 18th miner.

6.22am It's now 2.22pm in the afternoon in Chile, and around 14 hours since the first man came to the surface.

6.10am The rescuers say they will continue using the same capsule unless there are problems with it. They have been doing some work on it ahead of the rescue of the 18th miner. There has been some wear and tear on the door, but nothing too problematic.

6.00am 18th miner is on his way up in the capsule.

5.40am 17th man rescued
Omar Reygadas is brought to the surface in the capsule successfully. More than half of the 33 have now been rescued.

5.01am 16th man out
27-year-old Daniel Ferrera is the 16th miner out and immediately hugged his tearful mother. He looks in good health and was walking around before being strapped down onto a stretcher by medics. All of the rescued minders will spend at least two days in hospital being observed.

4.50am: Each rescue is taking 40-45 minutes so a bit quicker than originally estimated. Some of the older and sicker miners will soon be coming up so medical staff are all on standby. 

4.20am 15th man out
Victor Segovia emerges, the writer of the group, has emerged. While underground, he has been working on what could be his first published work.

Fifteen of Chile's 33 trapped miners have now been hoisted to safety in a cramped rescue capsule, punching the air and hugging their families in a triumphant end to their two-month ordeal.
   
One by one, the miners climbed into the capsule, which is barely wider than a man's shoulders and equipped with a gas mask and escape hatches for emergencies, and took a roughly 15-minute journey through 625 metres (2050 feet) of rock to freedom.

Earlier:

Mario Gomez, at 63 the oldest of the men and a miner for 50 years, suffers from silicosis and was breathing from an oxygen mask as he reached the surface. He was helped out of the capsule, and immediately dropped to his knees to pray with his yellow hard hat still perched on his head.

The operation was executed almost flawlessly through the night and included dramatic live images of miners hugging rescuers in their tunnel deep inside the mine.

An estimated 1,500 journalists from around the world were at the mine to report on the rescue. 

Chilean President Sebastian Pinera waited at the mouth of the rescue shaft to greet and hug the men.

Each of the miners wore dark glasses to protect their eyes after spending so long in the dimly lit tunnel below.

Yesterday:

10.45pm: Claudio Yanez will be the eighth miner to be rescued.

10.19pm: Seventh miner Jose Ojeda, the author of the note that first told rescuers the 33 men were alive and well, has been winched to safety.

10.10pm: BBC reports that legal action has been launched against the owners of the mine.

9.55pm: Psychologist James Thompson, an expert in Post Traumatic Stress disorder, says it is in the best interest of the miners to decompress first and talk among themselves before giving media interviews.

9.40pm: Osman Araya has arrived on the surface in the rescue pod. He is the sixth miner to be rescued. Araya has had an emotional reunion with his wife, he appears to be in good spirits despite being in the "vulnerable" group.

9.26pm: If rescuers continue at the rate they are at currently, all 33 miners should be on the surface by at least this time tomorrow night (NZ time).

8.58pm: The miners have been on a high calorie diet provided by NASA for the past couple of days. This is to prevent them from vomiting as the rescue pod spins during the journey up.

8.46pm: Osman Araya will be the sixth man brought up from the mine. He wrote a number of letters to family during his time trapped underground. One of them said: "I will never give up".

8.17pm: A helicopter has arrived to take the first four rescued miners to hospital.

8.11pm: Jimmy Sanchez has just emerged. Medics and psychiatric staff say they have the deepest fears for Sanchez, who appears to have been most traumatised by the event.

7.55pm: The final check has just been made on the rescue pod, the youngest miner, Jimmy Sanchez, is now making his way out of the place he described as "hell".

7.27pm: Jimmy Sanchez will be the next miner to be brought out of the mine. Sanchez has been deemed the most vulnerable of the group. The first four miners out were the strongest physically and mentally. The most vulnerable and sickest of the group will be brought up in the next batch.

7.06pm: The fourth miner, Carlos Mamani, has just reached the surface; he has been greeted by his wife Veronica. Mamani has said he will never work in a mine again.

6.57pm: The Chilean Government is supplying all the live streaming and images from inside the mine because they want to be open and transparent about the rescue.

6.41pm: 24-year-old Bolivian man Carlos Mamani will be the next miner to be rescued. The pod has just arrived down in the mine to collect him. He had only worked as a miner for five days when the mine collapsed. Bolivian President Evo Morales has promised Mamani a plot of land in Bolivia, so he can build a home for himself, his wife and daughter Emily.

6.33pm: The atmosphere at "Camp Hope" where the family and friends of the trapped miners are gathered is described as electric. The entire country is expected to party for days, following the rescue of all 33 miners.

6.19pm: The rescue pod is being prepared for the fourth rescue. A rescue worker will go down the mine with the pod to assist the trapped miners with any questions or concerns they may have with the trip up the shaft.

6.06pm: The third miner has been rescued, he is 52-year-old Juan Illanes, a former Chilean corporal. Like the two miners before him, he appears to be in great physical condition. Illanes went to work in the mine because he was fed up of being unemployed.

5.46pm: Many of the trapped miners are wearing no shirts because of the heat. It has been feared the men would suffer skin conditions because of the humidity in the mine.

5.37pm: The rescue pod has reached the trapped miners for a third time. The rescue pod is holding up well so far.

5.14pm: Both Florencio Avalos and Mario Sepulveda have been taken into a special medical area for checkups. The rescue pod is being inspected before it is lowered down the shaft for a third time. A second paramedic will go down with the pod.

5.04pm: The second miner has just emerged. The journey from the workshop in the mine to the surface is around 16 minutes. A smiling Mario Sepulveda has been greeted by his wife, this is the first time she has seen her husband in the flesh since August 5th, when he started his shift in the mine. Sepulveda is described as an outspoken man, who has always questioned the safety of the mine. He has brought a bag of rocks with him up the shaft. The miners are being greeted like rockstars and Sepulveda is lapping up the attention from the crowd.

4.47pm: The second miner, 40 year-old electrical specialist Mario Sepulveda, has just entered the rescue pod ready for his trip to the surface. The miners have been rehearsing the process of entering the pod over the last few hours; no one has rushed to the pod as it enters the workshop area, where all the men are gathered. The miners are all aware of the order they will be rescued and are all very calm.

4.32pm: Chilean President Sebastian Pinera has addressed the gathered crowd outside the mine, saying the rescue has made the country proud. He has thanked everyone for "keeping the faith".

4.23pm: The rescue pod is preparing to re-enter the shaft to rescue the second miner.

4.10pm: The first miner Florencio Avalos has just reached the surface after 69 days trapped in the mine. He has been welcomed by huge applause from the gathered crowd including his wife, his daughter and other family members, friends, politicians, rescue staff and supporters.

3.55pm: The first miner has just left the mine in the rescue pod. It will take a few minutes for him to reach the surface. His family have gathered at the entry of the shaft to greet him.

3.36pm: The rescue pod has just arrived at the miners, this is the first contact they have had with a human from outside the mine for 68 days. Miners are embracing the mine expert and celebrating. Clapping and cheering can be heard and seen on the mine camera.

3.31pm: A group of politicians, supporters, rescue staff and others have sung the Chilean national anthem as the mine expert evaluates the safety of the shaft.

3.16pm: A mine expert has been lowered down to the miners and will ascertain the condition of the shaft.

3.04pm: The rescue pod has been up and down three times. The next time it goes down, it will have a medic on board, it has just been announced.

2.53pm: NZ Mine Safety Adviser Dave Feickert tells CNN from Wanganui the rescue operation is "amazing, and totally unprecedented". He said failure is always possible but the resuce organisers have contingency plans. The network reports that minor damage has been repaired on the rescue pod.

2.31pm: The miners will be hoisted out one at a time in a two-day operation. The capsule will travel at about 1m per second, or a casual walking pace, and speed to 3m per second if the miner being carried gets into trouble. Each man's journey through solid rock to safety should take about 12 to 15 minutes. They will have their eyes closed and will be given dark glasses to avoid damaging their eyesight after spending so long in a dimly lit tunnel. They will then be under observation at a nearby hospital for two days.

2.07pm: The family of Florencio Avalos, the first miner to be rescued, tell media he was probably picked because he is very calm and in good physical condition.

2.02pm: The capsule is now back on the surface after its test run. It is now expected to send down a paramedic.

1.35pm: The capsule is now going down the shaft.

1.26pm: The capsule is being lowered into the shaft for a test-run.

1.20pm: The order in which the miners will emerge: Florencio Avalos, Mario Sepulveda, Juan Illanes, Carlos Mamani, Jimmy Sanchez, Osman Araya, Jose Ojeda, Claudio Yanez, Mario Gomez, Alex Vega, Jorge Galleguillos, Edison Pena, Carlos Barrios, Victor Zamora, Víctor Segovia, Daniel Herrera, Omar Reygadas, Esteban Rojas, Pablo Rojas, Dario Segovia, Yonni Barrios, Samuel Avalos, Carlos Bugueno, Jose Henriquez, Renan Avalos, Claudio Acuna, Franklin Lobos, Richard Villarroel, Juan Aguilar, Raul Bustos, Pedro Cortez, Ariel Ticona, Luis Urzua.

Urzua was chosen as the last miner to be rescued because he has been credited as the group's leader. He is said to have played an integral role in helping the miners survive the first 17 days when they were cut off from the outside world.

1.10pm: A phone cable has been lowered into the mine.

12.56pm: President Pinera has called on churches across Chile to ring their bells in celebration when the first miner emerges.

11.56am: Mining Minister Laurence Golborne is speaking at the site and says it will now be about two hours before the rescue begins. He said the communication systems in the capsule need to be up and running before the rescue can begin, and this will take some time.

11.51am: 52-year-old Juan Illanes, former Chilean corporal, will now be the third miner out and Bolivian miner Carlos Mamani, 24, will be fourth.

11:20am: The second miner to be rescued will be electrical specialist Mario Sepulveda, 40. He has frequently acted as a spokesman on the miners' videos. He was a union representative at another mine. The first miner to be rescued was announced earlier as Florencio Avalos, 31, an experienced miner in good physical shape.

11.17am: The capsule has been inspected and is being moved into position.

11.07am:  US President Barack Obama releases a statement saying America's "thoughts and prayers are with the brave miners, their families and those rescuing them".

10.39am: There are unconfirmed reports on Chilean TV that the rescuers are already inside the mine.

10.37am: The rescue 'Phoenix' capsule arrives at the site. The capsule comes equipped with a harness, oxygen and headset for communication with the surface.

10.29am: CNN has a photogallery with a picture and bio of each of the trapped miners.

10.05am: CNN's Karl Penhaul says some of the wives of the miners have been in hospital with stress-related illnesses.

10.01am: Bolivian President Evo Morales will arrive at the mine later in the day. One of the men, 23-year-old Carlos Mamani, is from Bolivia.

10.00am: The first of the miners is expected to be rescued around midday, but CNN's Karl Penhaul says the government is giving no fixed time.

9.57am: All 33 miners will be choppered to a nearby regional hospital for check-ups after they are rescued, CNN reports. They are expected to stay there for two days.

9.50am: Florencio Avalos, 31, an experienced miner in good physical shape, will be the first to make the 600m journey in the rescue capsule.

9.42am: Pinera says it will take an hour each to rescue the miners.

9.42am: "I hope that tonight will be an explosion of happiness and joy."

9.40am: Sebastian Pinera, Chilean President is speaking at the mine site: "We hope that with God's help we will be able to finish this saga with good results."

9.30am The Phoenix capsule could bring up the first miner in around an hour our reporter Mauricio Olmedo-Perez says.

9.00am Countdown to rescue of Chile miners begins.

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