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World News

August 24, 2010

Lifeline expanded to 33 trapped Chilean miners

Rescue likely to take four months

(Continued)

It was unclear whether their air supply was in danger of running out.

Rescuers had drilled repeatedly in an effort to reach the shelter, but failed seven times. They blamed the errors on the mining company's maps. According to Gomez's note, at least some of those earlier probes were close enough that the trapped miners heard them. The eighth attempt finally worked.

Gomez's note, which the president read aloud on live television, focused on expressions of faith and love for his family. But frustration also showed through in one line, where he declared that "this company has got to modernize."

Chile is the world's top copper producer and a leading gold producer, and has some of the world's most advanced mining operations. But both the company that owns the mine, San Esteban, and the National Mining and Geology Service have been criticized for allegedly failing to comply with regulations. In 2007, an explosion at the San Jose mine killed three workers.

Liliana Ramirez couldn't believe it when Chile's mining minister said her husband had sent a note to his "Dearest Lila."

"I know my husband is strong, and at 63, is the most experienced miner who could lead his co-workers," she said, but she vowed to keep him above ground once he's rescued.

Authorities and relatives of the miners hugged, climbed a nearby hill, planted 33 flags and sang Chile's national anthem after discovering the miners had survived.

Along the length of Chile, horns honked, flags waved and people watched the drama unfold live on television and computer screens. It was a rush of good news in a country still rebuilding from a magnitude-8.8 earthquake Feb. 27 and its resulting tsunami, which together killed at least 521 people and left 200,000 homeless.

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