. . . June
Giant drill at Chile mine greeted with cheers
COPIAPO, Chile (AFP) – Scores of flatbed trucks began unloading a huge oil drilling machine Friday to dig a third rescue tunnel to 33 trapped miners, as one drill was nearly one-third of the way down and another lay idle for repairs.
The families of the trapped miners cheered and waved flags as they welcomed the first of 42 trucks that rolled in around 8:30 am (1230 GMT).
'These trucks are enormous,' marveled Maria, sister of trapped miner Dario Segovia. 'We were up all night here in the camp waiting for them.'
Several of the six-axle trucks limped in with flat tires, a result of driving to the mine on a steep hillside dirt road filled with potholes and sharp rocks.
Their arrival was delayed as excavators and bulldozers had to broaden the entrance to the San Jose mine near Copiapo, a city some 800 kilometers north of Santiago, to accommodate the giant trucks.
The trapped miners have become national heroes since they were found alive on August 22, 17 days after a mine cave-in in the remote Atacama desert. The miners are trapped some 700 meters (2,300 feet)
below the surface.
However euphoria over their discovery was dampened by news it could take months, possibly until Christmas, to drill a shaft to rescue the miners.
Rescuers are dropping food and water down narrow shafts to the miners to keep them alive, along with medicines and games to keep them healthy and occupied.
One of the delivery shafts Friday was fitted with a multi-use conduit reaching all the way down to the miners' shelter, providing them with permanent supplies of oxygen, water, and a telephone line.
"Now they can speak by telephone via the conduct," the lead engineer in the rescue effort, Andres Sougarret, told reporters Friday.
The trucks bringing the new equipment, designed to drill oil wells and operated by Canada's Precision Drilling, arrived from Iquique in waves because the camp work zone is too small to park them all together.
The giant drill "RIG-422" they were bringing can tunnel up to 2,000 meters below the surface at a speed -- depending on the density of the ground -- of between 20 and 40 meters a day, according to Chilean officials.
Officials have dubbed the effort "Plan C," and if all goes according to schedule workers will drill down just 597 meters (1,958 feet), shortening the rescue time to perhaps two months.
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