Countdown to Mine Rescue: Chile Miners Prepare to Be Lifted Into Sunlight

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A bell announced the breakthrough to the miners' families at the makeshift camp outside the mine gates. What followed was a spontaneous celebration, but it will no doubt be dwarfed by the celebration that will follow the rescue of all 33 men.

When the disaster began, mining officials thought that rescue wouldn't be possible until December. Drilling has proceeded faster than expected, giving hope to the families waiting eagerly for their loved ones' return.

Now, for the final critical moments, the engineers and officials overseeing the rescue have tried to take every precaution possible.

In anticipation of that moment, engineers lined the top 300 feet of the shaft overnight with steel casing because of concerns about loose rocks falling on the rescue capsule.

Miners in Good Spirits

If something goes wrong during the 2,000-foot journey to the surface, there is an escape system that allows the miner to separate the capsule so that he can be lowered back to the mine.

While some of the miners have serious medical issues such as skin disease, fungal infections and lung problems as a result of the stifling heat and humidity of the mine, officials said, all are in remarkably good spirits.

"We began to talk to them about the proper order of rescue and they were fighting against us yesterday because every one of them wanted to be at the end of the line, not at the beginning," Chilean Minister of Health Jaime Manalich said Sunday.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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