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August 25, 2010

Miners made 2 days of food last 17

(Continued)

A steady flow of emergency supplies was sent down to the miners on Tuesday in a rocket-shaped metal tube called a "paloma," Spanish for dove. The paloma is 51/4 feet long and takes a full hour to descend through the bore-hole.

The supplies included 33 small low-intensity and low-energy LED lights, so that each miner can have a light source that won't bother his eyes in the otherwise murky depths of the mine. Also sent down yesterday was "more nutritive food" in the form of a vitamin-enriched gel, along with eye patches, aspirin and medicine for one miner who has diabetes and another who suffers from the respiratory disease silicosis, Health Minister Jaime Manalich said yesterday.

Family members who have maintained an anxious vigil outside the mine were encouraged to send notes down Yesterday. First was Lila Ramirez, answering the "Dear Lila" letter from her husband, Mario Gomez, that thrilled the nation when President Sebastian Pinera read it aloud, providing the first details of the miners' survival.

"I wrote him just now and told him to be very patient, that we're all camped out here, following his every heartbeat. That he shouldn't become desperate, and that he try to be extremely tranquil," Ramirez told the AP.

With each passing day, the families have been praying for their trapped husbands, fathers, brothers and boyfriends in tents surrounding the mine entrance, where cold nights end in a chilly fog. There's a bonfire to keep warm, and barbecue and other food donated by the local government in a common tent.

"We're not going to abandon this camp until we go out with the last miner left," said Maria Segovia. "There are 33 of them, and one is my brother."

Before the miners were discovered alive on Sunday, many Chileans were beginning to assume the worst. The stunning news of their survival prompted euphoria and pride across a country still recovering from one of the world's most powerful earthquakes.

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