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33 MINERS RESCUED IN CHILE AFTER 69 DAYS UNDERGROUND.

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Denzel Musumba

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Chile completed its flawless rescue of 33 miners trapped for a record 10 weeks, sparking euphoria at home after a 22-hour drama that captivated hundreds of millions around the globe. The ascent late Wednesday of the last of the miners, grizzled shift leader Luis Urzua, capped an against-all-odds operation of high technology and true grit, and hailed by Chile’s president as an inspiration to the world. It also spelt the end of a nightmare lived by the men, who had survived more than two months in a dank and dark tunnel 622 metres below the surface of Chile’s northern Atacama desert following an August 5 cave-in. “They were experiencing a kind of rebirth,” President Sebastian Pinera said in a televised address to the nation from the San Jose gold and copper mine. Everywhere from the mine to the capital Santiago, tears glistened in eyes and on cheeks as the South American nation joined together in an unsurpassed moment of elation. Car horns honked in cities and vuvuzela horns blared. Thirty-three balloons decked out in Chile’s red-white-and-blue colours floated free into the night sky above the mine at the exact moment the last of the trapped miners was hoisted to the surface. Relatives later streamed up a hill where 33 Chilean flags had been planted to give thanks for what has quickly been dubbed the “miracle in the mine.” “It’s a new life about to begin,” said Belgica Ramirez, the sister-in-law of Mario Gomez, the oldest of the miners saved. I will die a miner “He told me, ‘I am a miner, and I will die a miner.’” Pinera hailed Urzua for doing his duty and seeing off all his men before “leaving last like a ship’s captain,” saying the operation had been “inspiring... for the whole world.” The pair led an emotional rendition of Chile’s national anthem that was echoed across the country. The spectacular rescue was followed by an estimated one billion people worldwide, many of them catching live updates on television or the Internet.

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