Seventeen days after a mineshaft inside San Jose's gold and silver mine collapsed, the world received the amazing news that the 33 miners trapped inside, were alive and well. Now, came the next challenge - How to pull them out safely.
Initially, it was feared that drilling could take, as long as, three months and that the earliest the men could be pulled out, would be around Christmas. However, thanks to the efforts of Pennsylvaniabased Center Rock Inc., the men may begin their journey back to the surface, in the next couple of days, about a month and a half earlier, than had originally been predicted.
The news that the 2,050-foot long, 28-inch diameter hole, was ready, was met with much cheering from the relatives camped near the area, as well as, the trapped miners.
Whilst the experts complete the final safety tests, the miners are being prepared, both mentally and physically, for their epic journey back to the surface, not an easy feat, given the depths and conditions they have lived in, during the last few months.
Today, the officials lowered down special equipment to measure their heart rate, respiration rate and skin temperature. The biggest worry they have is their blood pressure - spikes or sudden drops, either of which could occur during the ascent.
Another concern is blood clotting. To avoid that, the miners have been given asprin and, will also be wearing compression socks and girdles, when they are being lifted up.
The tunnel is so twisted that the miners will be taking about a dozen, 350-degree turns, during their 20 minute ascent inside the narrow capsule. There is therefore concern that some may suffer from severe nausea. To combat that, six-hours before climbing aboard the capsule, the miners will be restricted to a high-calorie liquid diet specially formulated by NASA.
They will also be wearing sweaters since the temperature will go from a sweltering 90 degrees Fahrenheit in the shaft, to almost freezing, especially for the ones ascending at night. Those coming out during the daytime, will be given sunglasses, so that their eyes, which haven't seen the sun in over two months, can adjust gradually. While each miner will also be given an oxygen mask and a two-way radio as they are coming up, a video camera will be installed in the shaft, to monitor them.
Once they emerge, they will be subjected to a brief health check and then quickly whisked to a hospital, where they will be kept under observation in a darkened room, for a few days.
Not surprisingly, the miners are a little nervous and nobody wants to be the first to be rescued. While a tentative list that has been set up, two brave paramedics, one from the Navy and the other from the mining company, will go down to the mine and examine them before making the final decision.
While the officials and health experts can take every precaution possible, there is one thing they cannot control - Panic, which is something they are really afraid of, especially amongst the first few people who are rescued. We sure hope that everything goes well and that by this time next week, all 33 will be re-united with their families and loved ones.