All 33 Chilean Miners Rescued in What Country's President Calls a 'Miracle'


"In our case, we didn't waste a second. From the very first moment, we decided to take full responsibility for the rescue effort," Pinera said. "Second lesson, never lose your faith and hope. Never give up!"

This afternoon, President Obama spoke about the miners in the White House Rose Garden, noting the "joy of people everywhere" at the news of each successful rescue.

"This rescue is a tribute not only to the determination of the rescue workers and the Chilean government but also of the Chilean people, who have inspired the world," Obama said. "I want to express the hopes of the American people that the miners who are still trapped underground will be returned home safely as soon as possible."

Miners Rejoice at Freedom

The journey to the surface reportedly was a bumpy one as the small cylindrical cage that freed the miners bumped back and forth on the way up and down, rattling the cramped riders.

"The Phoenix is performing extraordinarily well," Manalich said this morning. "The journey times to the surface are shorter than we estimated. The capsule is not suffering damage. The communication and monitoring systems used on the miners are working excellently."

A raucous cheer went up shortly after midnight local time as the first miner, Florencio Avalos, emerged from a rescue capsule wearing a helmet and sunglasses to protect his eyes from the nighttime lights at the San Jose Mine. Waiting on the surface was a crowd of hundreds, including family members and reporters. Some have stood vigil since the Aug. 5 mine collapse near the northern Chilean city of Copiapo, 500 miles north of Santiago.

The first miner to escape, Avalos, 31, hugged members of his family, Chilean President Sebastian Pinera and onlookers. He then was wheeled away on a stretcher to a triage area where the rescued miners were being assessed.

A second miner, Mario Sepulveda, 40, stepped out of the rescue capsule around an hour later -- and also was met with hugs all around, according to a live Chilean government television feed.

After hugging his wife, he reached into a bag and pulled out rocks -- souvenirs of the mine that was his prison for more than two months. Sepulveda gave them to Chile's president and the rescue workers.

Seemingly full of energy after his release, at one point he bounded to a crowd of his countrymen and led them in an enthusiastic national chant.

"I was with God and I was with the devil, but God won," Sepulveda said later in Spanish. "At no point in time did I doubt that God would get me out of there."

The oldest of the miners, 63-year-old Mario Gomez, presented one of the greatest health concerns for officials, but seemed fairly healthy when he happily emerged. Gomez hugged his family as he stepped out of the rescue capsule and, before leaving the site, dropped to his knees and prayed.

Gomez suffers from silicosis, a lung disease caused by breathing in silicone dust during his 50 years in the mines.

Elizabeth Henriquez, whose brother Jose Henriquez still was awaiting his turn for rescue, was beaming as she spoke on "Good Morning America" today.

Through a translator, Henriquez said she couldn't wait for her brother to come out and that the first thing she's going to tell him is that she missed him very much and loves him. She added that she doubted he would want to go back to work in the mine anytime soon.

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