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Chilean Miners Could Be Stuck In 600 Sq. Foot Space Until Christmas

Rescuers send food, medicines down 6-inch hole, the miners' sole window to world

ByABC News
August 23, 2010, 4:53 PM

August 23, 2010 — -- Rejoice and relief after the discovery that 33 miners trapped in a Chilean mine are still alive has yielded to extensive planning on how to treat and care for the trapped men in what might be a four-month process to free them.

The men's window to the world is a mere six-inch wide hole, the same hole that rescue workers put a camera down yesterday giving anxious families further proof that their loved ones are alive. Just a few words scrawled in red paint brought the sweetest of news: "All 33 of us are fine in the shelter."

"We are happy," said Caterine Avalos whose brother is trapped underground. "This is what we have been waiting 17 days to hear."

The 32 Chilean men and one Bolivian man have already been trapped for 17 days and experts say that it could take until Christmas to free them from the gold and copper mine.

2,258 feet Below Ground

When the mine collapsed on August 5, the men journeyed down seven miles of zigzagging tunnels, 2,258 feet to get to the mine's shelter.

After seven failed attempts, rescuers finally drilled a six-inch hole down to where the men are holed up. When the drill came back to the surface, two notes were attached to it, one from the eldest of the miners, 63-year-old Mario Gomez. He wrote to his wife, "I want to tell everyone that I'm good and we'll surely come out ok.

Now, the hole that let the world know the men are still alive will be used to sustain them. Engineers worked through the night to coat the walls of the bore-hole with a metallic gel to help reinforce the hole and make it easier for rescuers and family to send the men materials.