Trapped Chilean Miners: Big Drill Arrives on Scene to Cheers

The drill arrives, but it's a long haul for trapped men.

ByABC News
August 23, 2010, 4:53 PM

Aug. 24, 2010 — -- A convoy carrying the huge drill that will bore the 26-inch wide hole to liberate 33 trapped Chilean miners has just arrived at the remote mine site.

With horns blaring and family members of the miners cheering, the procession inched its way up to the rescue area where the miners are trapped 2,258 feet below ground.

It is expected to take several days to assemble to drill. Once it is operating it will be slow going -- perhaps 30 to 60 feet per day. Laurence Golborne, Chile's mines minister, says the unstable rock and the safety of the trapped miners prevent the use of faster drilling methods.

The trapped men have not yet been told that it may take four months to drill the rescue hole for fear of demoralizing them, officials said.

Maria Segovia's brother is one of the trapped miners. She's been camping out by the mine since the collapse August 5.

"Even though they haven't told them how long the rescue will take, they are strong, they are miners and they know it won't be easy to get them out," Segovia said. "This is going to teach the world about survival, about the will to live."

Earlier today, officials revealed new details on just how the men survived 17 days with no help and what they will need for the months-long effort to rescue them.

"We've made contact, they are good," said Golborne. "The worst problem is that one has a stomach ache."

The discovery on Sunday that the trapped Chilean miners are alive couldn't have come soon enough; the miners were just days away from running out of their meager food supply.

Every two days since the August 5 mine collapse, the men would eat two spoonfuls of canned fish, a half cup of milk, half of a cracker and a little canned peach. The men managed to stretch a 48-hour food supply into rations to last them 20 days.

Rescuers think the men have each lost at least 17.6 pounds and each run the risk of developing ulcers. Today, the men are eating glucose and rehydration tablets to restore their digestive systems.

"The idea is to administer glucose solution to them in large quantities and test their tolerance by oral ingestion," said Paola Newman, head of health for the Atacama region of Chile.

Rescue workers established phone contact with the men for about an hour yesterday by lowering a communication cable down one of two six-inch bore holes that have been drilled. Workers say that the leader of the group, Luis Urzua, sounded strong. Urzua, 54-years-old, is the chief of the miners' shift. He told rescuers that the men almost escaped from the copper and gold mine.

"We went up the [ventilation] chimney, and since we ran out of ladder, we aborted the situation," Urzua told rescuers.

Engineers say that the men were just 82 feet from escaping the mine when they ran out of ladder.

Engineers and rescue workers listened to the men sing the Chilean National Anthem. They instructed the men on how to act in the coming hours and how to use the supplies that are being lowered to them through a six inch hole. They were told to stay clear of the mine's collapsed zone.