Trapped Chilean Miners Emerge From Two-Month Ordeal

After 10 weeks underground, miners surface. One miner has pneumonia.

October 13, 2010, 1:13 AM

SAN JOSE MINE, Chile, Oct. 13, 2010— -- Most of theChilean miners have ascended to freedom from the underground chamber where they've been entombed for 10 weeks, the longest time ever for a successful rescue.

For full coverage of the miners' rescue, stay tuned to ABC News. Watch "World News" at 6:30 p.m. ET, then "A Special Edition of 20/20: Miracle at the Mine," anchored by Diane Sawyer at 10 p.m. ET, and a special edition of "Nightline" at 11:35 p.m. ET.

The painstaking extractions continued overnight and throughout today. The well-oiled operation picked up speed throughout the day, with miners surfacing from the 28-inch-diameter hole nearly every half hour.

After being examined at a triage unit on site, miners were transported via helicopter to a hospital in the nearby city of Copiapo.

At the hospital this afternoon, Chilean Health Minister Jaime Manalich said one of the miners had pneumonia and two others will need minor dental surgery. Some miners also had eye ulcers.

Manalich expected all of the miners would be at the hospital by 4 a.m. local time Thursday and most would get to go home no later than Monday.

For a video slideshow of the dramatic rescue efforts, click here. The videos show all mine workers at the moment they leave the capsule and embrace their loved ones.

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 Fenix 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.

Testing the Fenix Capsule at the Mine

For the first two to three hours of the operation, officials ran tests of the steel Fenix rescue capsule, including runs up and down the rescue shaft with the capsule empty or containing rescue workers or equipment.

As the initial tests proceeded, rescue workers chanted a modified cheer popularized during Chile's World Cup soccer games: "Vamos, vamos Chilenos, porque esta noche tenemos que ganar," the chant traditionally goes, which translates to, "Come on, come on Chileans, tonight we have to win."

In this case, the end of the chant was being modified to say, "Y los tenemos que sacar," which means, "And we've got to get them out."

ABC News Diana Alvear, Lee Ferran and Bradley Blackburn contributed to this report, as did The Associated Press and Reuters.

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