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All 33 Chilean Miners Reach Surface


Bolivian national Carlos Mamani celebrates as he arrives as the fourth miner to be hoisted to the surface in Copiapo on October 13.
The ordeal of 33 miners trapped for more than two months underground in Chile has ended as the last of them emerged to safety.

Jubilant celebrations broke out as each of the miners emerged from the underground in an extraordinary rescue operation that saw each man being winched up more than a half a kilometer in a narrow steel capsule.

The miners were trapped nearly 700 meters below the ground for 69 days.

No one in recorded history has survived as long trapped underground.

The San Jose copper and gold mine in Chile's northern Atacama desert collapsed on August 5.

After 17 days of drilling, during which many had given them up for dead, rescue teams bore a small hole to the mine and discovered the 33 miners alive. The hole was then used to pass hydration gels, water, and food to keep the miners alive.

No one died in the original accident.

President Sebastian Pinera was waiting at the head of the rescue shaft, when the miners emerged to the surface one by one as national heroes amid smiles, tears, and a sea of red-white-and-blue national flags.

Maria Cecilia Rojo, a relative of miner Dario Segovia, was there.

"This is very emotional," she said. "I'm very happy because they all got out. They are all free again, they are all reborn."

Bolivian President Evo Morales was also at the site to greet a Bolivian miner, the only non-Chilean in the bunch, after his rescue.

At the end of the 22-hour operation, six rescuers who were lowered into the mine to supervise the rescue operation held up a banner saying "Mission accomplished." They all later reached the surface.

In nearby Copiapo, many people drove their cars around town honking the horns, while bells sounded throughout Chile in celebration.

In a televised address to the nation at the mine, Pinera called the rescue "a miracle" that had united the country.

"The miners are not the same miners who got trapped on August 5th," Pinera said. "They have come out strengthened, and they have given us a lesson. But Chile is not the same either. I think that Chile, today, is more united and stronger than ever. And I think that Chile today is more valued and respected in the entire world."

Pinera, who was at the mine throughout the rescue operation, thanked the 33 miners, who he said "gave us a lesson in loyalty, comradeship, and teamwork."

U.S. President Barack Obama hailed the operation as a tribute to the "unity and resolve of the Chilean people, who have inspired the world."

The miners are now being treated at a hospital in Copiapo.

Some have dental infections and others have eye problems as a result of living in the dirt and darkness of the mine. One has been diagnosed with pneumonia.

The rescued miners are facing new-found celebrity status.

A local businessman has given them $10,000 each, the firm Apple has sent them each an iPod, a Greek firm has offered an islands tour, and European football clubs Real Madrid and Manchester United have invited them to watch them play.

In Taiwan, several lawmakers suggested to invite the miners to visit the 2010 Taipei International Flora Expo, which starts in November, in an effort to provide exposure for the island which suffers international isolation.

compiled from agency reports