Sunday, August 29, 2010

Chile miners speak to loved ones for first time


The supply line which is proving vital to the Chilean miners Miners who have been trapped underground in Chile for more than three weeks have had their first telephone contact with loved ones. Families queued to use a special telephone cabin and were given one minute each to talk to the trapped men.  Psychologists have urged family members making the calls to sound optimistic. The breakthrough came as Chile's mining minister insisted that the rescue shaft drilling - due to begin on Monday - was likely to take three to four months. On Sunday reports from engineers working on a "plan B" option has suggested this could be cut by as much as half if an existing route down was adapted.

The telephone calls lent a new immediacy to communications with the miners. Until now only handwritten notes have been passed through the bore holes. Officials are looking at several plans to rescue the 33 men, who have been stuck below ground since 5 August.  Workers are due on Monday to start drilling an escape shaft going about 700m (2,300ft) underground, which is likely to take 90 to 120 days to complete. Health Minister Jaime Manalich said the men's spirits had been "strengthened" by the phone calls from their families.

He said that psychologists had asked family members making the calls "to be optimistic and to try not to break down with emotion". One of the miners' wives, Carola Narvaez, said her husband, Raul, was in good spirits after her telephone conversation. "I told him we were thinking of him and he should keep his chin up," Mrs Narvaez de Bustos told the BBC by phone. "He was talking non-stop and I found it difficult to get a word in," she joked. The atmosphere among the wives and children at the mine head was "upbeat", Mrs Narvaez de Bustos added.

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