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After 69 days,  Florencio Avalos, the first of the 33 trapped Chilean mine workers, has just been lifted out of the mine pit.

0020 Even as the celebrations begin, it's time to press on. There are 32 more miners to rescue. Another rescue worker, in navy uniform, Robert Rios Seguel, is buckling up his harness near the shaft.

0016 A smiling Florencio Avalos looks fit and strong as he is led away for his check-up.

0016 The little daughter of Florencio Avalos bursts into tears as claps and cheers go up around the miner, free at last.

0015 BBC Mundo's Valeria Perasso has tweeted: "They say Florencio Avalos didn't get along with his family and that he had never spent such a long time with his brother Renan as he did on this 69 days. From the confinement of the mine, he wrote a letter saying that the most important thing for him is family." Read Valeria Perasso's tweets

0013 Florencio Avalos hugs and kisses his family as celebrations erupt at the top of the rescue shaft. At this hugely emotional moment, the miner himself seems composed and calm. A huge boost for everyone.

0011 After 69 days, Florencio Avalos becomes the first miner to emerge from the San Jose mine.

0010 In centre of Copiapo, the BBC's Matthew Rhodes says everyone is glued to a big screen waiting for first miner to come out. There is very little noise from the crowd - everyone is just waiting to see the first face.

0008 Sirens go off at the mine head, telling medics to be ready for the capsule's arrival.

0007 Another emotional tweet from President Sebastian Pinera: "The excitement! The joy! The proudness to be Chilean! And the gratefulness to God!" Read Sebastian Pinera's tweets

The Live Feeds of the rescue mission are here. (with pics & vids)

PS - Not much of a diary, but what the heck...

UPDATE 1 (from the BBC link):

0458 Remember it is more than 30C down below and close to freezing above. Hence the donning of the sweater.

0057 Mario Sepulveda is on his way, wearing a sweater and an oxygen mask.

0055 Mario Sepulveda becomes the second miner hoisted from the bottom of the San Jose shaft.

0053 Down in the depths, Mario Sepulveda is helped into the capsule. On the audio feed, the voices of the controllers at the surface sound relaxed and at ease.

0050 Mr Sepulveda was the undisputed star of the videos sent up by the miners. Known by many as "the presenter", he interviewed the other miners and gave guided TV tours of their refuge. Quick-witted and charismatic, he is already in demand among Chile's TV chat shows.


0134 Sgt Rios and Corporal Roblero have the authority to rearrange the rescue list based on medical need. The idea is to bring out some of the fittest miners first, then those with medical conditions such as hypertension and diabetes. The last to go should be both physically fit and strong of character.

0129 People around the world are tweeting in reaction to Mario Sepulveda's energetic exit. Paula Torres in Ecuador tweets: "I love how joyful Mario Sepulveda is. How could he not be, he now has a second chance at life!" T Kindred in Texas, USA, tweets: "Mario Sepulveda just made my night It seems his spirit was never broken and the fact that he passed out rocks as gift is funny."

0127 Heading down: Patricio Roblero, a corporal in the Chilean navy, who has solid experience of survival in hostile environments and escapes from confined spaces.

0123 More reaction from those who are neither Chilean, nor miners, yet find themselves hooked on the drama. Gemma in Newcastle, UK, writes: "I shed a tear at the first miner appearing. The strength of the human spirit is beautiful and awe inspiring."


0211 The BBC's Matthew Rhodes is in Copiapo, the nearest town to the mine. The celebrations are in full swing there, and there can hardly be a car horn not sounding out in this proud mining town.

0209 As Juan Illanes emerges, he is asked how his trip was. His reply? "Like a cruise!" Smiles all round.

0208 And Juan Illanes is with us. Three up, 30 to go - or 33 if you include the three rescuers now underground with the miners.

0207 Juan Illanes reaches the surface, the third miner to emerge from the depths.

Big question - Do they have a standby capsule in case this gets dinged too much ? Has anyone read about that ?

Question answered. Yes, they do have another phenix on stand-by. :)

UPDATE 4: Seven miners now rescued. Operation going smoothly.

0640 The capsule goes down for Claudio Yanez, a 34-year-old drill operator who accepted a marriage proposal from his long-term partner, Cristina Nunez, while stuck underground.

0634 Emotional scenes as Jimmy Sanchez, the 19-year-old who was said to have found it hard to cope, walks out of the field hospital to be greeted by his girlfriend, Helen.

0631 Jose Ojeda could be seen jubilantly waving a Chilean flag as soon as he stepped out of the capsule.

0628 The rescue capsule is being checked carefully every time it comes to the surface. No-one wants to see an accident or malfunction at this point in what has been a flawless operation.

0621 Jose Ojeda, miner number seven, is free.

UPDATE 5: The oldest miner is now out.

0802 Mario Gomez, 63, who was thinking of retiring in November, has now emerged from the mine. Emerging from the cage, he stuck two thumbs in the air and held up a Chilean flag.

0800 Veteran miner Mario Gomez becomes the ninth man safely pulled to the surface.

0758 Despite concerns about the health of Mario Gomez, the rescuers appear relaxed - laughing and joking, and taking pictures with his wife Liliana Ramirez. The wheel is continuing to turn, and a sense of anticipation is building.

0752 Lilian Ramirez, the wife of Mario Gomez, walks over to the yellow gantry where she will soon meet the 63-year-old, who has been working in the mines since the age of 12. A few weeks ago, she told the media she had received a memorable letter from him. "He said he loves me. I've never received a letter like that from him - even when we were going out he wasn't romantic."

0740 Extra health precautions are being taken for the oldest miner, 63-year-old Mario Gomez, as he prepares to enter the capsule deep underground. He is being fitted with a full-face oxygen mask as he has had some respiratory problems.

The rescue team has planned this whole thing wonderfully down to the last detail. Hats off to them.

Originally posted to amk for obama on Tue Oct 12, 2010 at 08:26 PM PDT.

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