There was rejoicing all over Chile today when 33 miners were discovered trapped but alive, but a government official said it could take up to four months to get them out.
The miners -- 32 Chileans and one Bolivian -- were trapped after the upper galleries of the San José mine, a private mine near the northern town of Copiapó, collapsed 17 days ago.
The collapse happened Aug. 5, close to the time of the miners' lunch break.
Some feared the 33 miners still inside the mine at the time of the collapse could have been in the disaster zone on their way out.
Liliana Ramírez, the wife of one of the oldest miners trapped, said she had faith all along that they were still alive and that she knew that her husband would never let his fellow workers perish.
The miners sent up notes attached to probes drilling into the area of a refuge located 2,297 feet -- almost one-half mile -- underground.
Ramírez said her husband was weak, like they all must be, and said her message was that she wished him the strength to resist until they can be rescued, "and that I love him," she added.
Undersecretary of Mining Pablo Wagner said it will be a long process to dig a hole deep and wide enough to get the trapped miners out, and that it could take three to four months.
The state-owned CODELCO Andina mine in Los Andes, about 50 miles north of Santiago, is sending machinery to the site of the mine that can drill a "chimney" 2.2 feet wide to bring the miners out.
The probes that made contact with the 33 miners are considerably more narrow.
Once this perforation is reinforced and secured, food, water and medicine can be sent down into the area where the survivors are located.
Officials said they hope communication can also be established to keep up the spirits of the miners and their relatives during their long wait for rescue.
The families of the trapped miners have been camped out on the surface since the cave-in occurred.
The rescue of the miners ran into difficulties last week when rescue workers were unable to pass through the mine's tunnel. They found it blocked by an enormous rock.
Later, authorities deemed the situation inside the mine too unstable to allow more rescue workers in, because of fear there could be more cave-ins.