COPIAPO, Chile (AP) — Each of the 33 miners trapped a half-mile underground lived on two spoonfuls of tuna, a sip of milk, a bite of crackers and a morsel of peaches. Every other day.
They were so careful in eating what was supposed to be a two-day emergency supply that when the outside world finally reached them 17 days after a mine collapse, they still had some food left.
The discipline the men have already shown will be essential during the four months it may take rescuers to dig a hole wide enough to get them out of their shelter. The first communications with the trapped miners, now able to talk through a fixed line with their rescuers above — show how determined they have been to stay alive.
"We heard them with such strength, such spirit, which is a reflection of what for them has been a gigantic fortitude and a very well organized effort," Mining Minister Laurence Golborne said yesterday after talking with the miners at length the night before through an intercom system lowered into their underground refuge. "The way that they have rationed the food, just as they've performed throughout this crisis, is an example for all of us."
The miners were plunged into darkness by the Aug. 5 collapse of the main shaft of a gold and silver mine that runs like a corkscrew for more than four miles (7 kilometers) under a barren mountain in northern Chile's Atacama desert. They gained contact with the outside world Sunday when rescuers drilled a narrow bore-hole down to their living-room-sized shelter after seven failed attempts.
"It's been like a heart that's breaking, but we're thankful they're all alive," bore-hole driller Rodrigo Carreno told The Associated Press as he prepared to leave yesterday. "We did everything we could to save them, and in the end we succeeded."