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World is captive audience for Chile mine rescue

By Sara Hussein

WASHINGTON, Wednesday 13 October 2010 (AFP) - A global audience watched captivated on Wednesday as the first of 33 miners trapped for a record 68 days deep underground emerged into the cold night air of Chile's Atacama desert.

People logged on and tuned in to read, watch and listen as Florencio Avalos was successfully extracted from the depths of the San Jose mine at 0310 GMT, followed by co-worker Mario Sepulveda exactly one hour later.

The fate of the men, who were trapped more than 600 meters (2,000 feet) underground for 17 days before being discovered, has become a momentous human interest story, enthralling people at every twist and turn.

Wellwishers from every corner of the globe, ranging in status from fellow miners to heads of state, have turned their attention on the remote site.

Initially given up for dead, grieving had already begun when a sensational note was found tied to a drill probe on August 22 saying: "All 33 of us are well inside the shelter."

Millions have since followed the painstaking rescue efforts as a shaft wide enough to extract the men was drilled in an unprecedented months-long operation, imagining the nightmarish existence of the men deep underground.

As the rescue bid got under way, live images from the site were broadcast to viewers in New York, Sydney, London and Tokyo.

The BBC streamed footage of the operation alongside a scrolling sidebar of mini-bites of information emerging from the crowd of relatives and Chilean politicians waiting to receive the miners-turned-national heroes.

Japan's major television networks also offered live coverage, complete with profiles of the 32 Chileans and one Bolivian, who survived their first 17 days before making contact with rescuers by rationing emergency supplies.

Japanese doctors discussed various medical complications the men could suffer, while Australian news stations, websites and radio bulletins devoted non-stop coverage to the dramatic operation.

In Washington, President Barack Obama issued a statement saying he too was following the fate of the 33 men, who have set a new record for surviving underground.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the brave miners, their families, and the men and women who have been working so hard to rescue them," said a statement issued by the White House in English and Spanish.

"While that rescue is far from over and difficult work remains, we pray that by God's grace, the miners will be able to emerge safely and return to their families soon," Obama said.

Chile's embassy in Washington DC set up a public live video feed of the rescue operation, which will see the men emerge gradually and reunite with relatives before being flown by helicopter to a nearby hospital.

In the Spanish-speaking world, the rescue bid dominated news stations and websites.

Spanish-language station Univision ran live video of the site, while Chile's La Tercera newspaper website carried a graphic header with empty boxes to be filled in as each miner emerged safe, and two counters tallying "rescued miners" and "miners in hospital."

The interest appeared to overwhelm authorities managing media at the mine site. They ran out of international media badges and began issuing hand-labeled IDs to reporters arriving from as far afield as China and Turkey.

China's Xinhua news agency and state television were reporting from the ground, and popular news portals Sohu and Sina set up special sections on their front pages featuring details on the rescue effort.

Al-Jazeera's English language station had a correspondent stationed at the site updating a Twitter feed with the latest information.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez also took to the micro-blogging site to send his best wishes to the rescue crews and the miners. "We are with Chile! God be with you," he wrote.

Related stories:
Chile's joy spreads to the world as all 33 miners saved
Jubilation as last miner rescued in Chile
Rescued Chilean miners are healthy, with exceptions
Emotional Chile miners' rescue in final stages
Rescued: Chilean miners taste freedom at last
Cheers and tears as first miners emerge in Chile
Who are these heroic Chile miners?
Media mayhem mars family's joy at Chile mine rescue
Chronology of the Chile mine disaster (UPDATED)
Concern for psychological welfare when Chile miners emerge
First Chile miner back on surface after 10-week ordeal
First Chile miners set for Tuesday rescue
Hopes and fears as Chile miners prepare for rescue

Photo story:
Seeing light again

MySinchew 2010.10.13


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