Trapped: Inside the Chilean Mine Collapse

Underground with the miners. Will soccer keep them sane?

ByABC News
September 13, 2010, 9:43 AM

SAN JOSE MINE, Chile, Sept. 14, 2010— -- Chile's Atacama Desert is said to be the driest place on earth. For now though, the route to the San Jose mine, where 33 men have been trapped for over a month, is carpeted in a rare, lush spectacle: an explosion of purple flowers.

When you arrive at the entrance of the old copper mine you find a rescue operation being watched from around the world.

Around the clock, families of the trapped men sit vigil at the gate in area they call "Camp Hope," where they wait for news from below and advances in the rescue effort. Each family is now being given a chance to speak to and see trapped loved ones, via a new fiber optic video line that snakes down to where the men are trapped.

"Daddy, how are you? I love you," said nine-year-old Arlen Yanez to her father Claudio, as she watched him and he watched her. "We are waiting for you."

"I love you lots too," replied Yanez, 2,300 feet below ground, inside the mine that collapsed around him and 32 other men on Aug. 5.

It took 17 days after the collapse for rescuers to discover that all of the trapped men were still alive. The Chilean government took over the rescue effort on the first day and has poured enormous resources into the operation.

There is no specialized equipment for underground rescue on this scale. Everything here is being improvised. Over the weekend, a convoy of 42 huge flatbed trucks -- many them used by the Chilean Army to move tanks -- carted in a massive drill rig normally used for oil wells.

Known as Plan C, it is the third rescue effort here. It is now being assembled and should be operating in about a week.

Plan A, up on the hillside, is a ventilation-shaft drill that has now bored a hole a third of the way down to the miners. Once the hole is complete, it must be widened widened to 26 inches.

And at the bottom of the hill is Plan B, a rig normally used to drill for water. It had made fast progress until its drill bit was shredded by metal in the old mine. The rig has been quiet for days as workers try remove the broken metal pieces with magnets and a claw. It is not easy. They may have remove the rig and drill a new hole.