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After More Than Two Months, San Jose Mine Rescue Underway In Rural Chile

Alfonso Avalos, father of Chilean miner Florencio Avalos, celebrates after Florencio was brought to the surface.
Alfonso Avalos, father of Chilean miner Florencio Avalos, celebrates after Florencio was brought to the surface.

UPDATE at 1:09 a.m. ET:
Juan Illanes, 52, emerged from the rescue capsule; embraced his wife, the Chilean president, and other officials; and waved to onlookers.

For 68 days, Florencio Avalos had been trapped in the San Jose mine, near Copiapo, Chile, with 32 other miners. Moments ago, he was reunited with his family.

It was, The New York Timessaid, "the beginning of the end of a rescue operation that has inspired the nation and riveted the world."

Avalos, 31, traveled up a narrow, nearly half-mile rescue shaft in a specially designed capsule that officials had been testing for much of Tuesday. Shortly after midnight, horns blared as the capsule reached the surface with Mr. Avalos inside. With a look of sturdy calm, he hugged his family, his nation’s president and the workers around him before being taken away on a stretcher, giving a thumbs-up as he left.

It took just over 15 minutes for the capsule to descend. Some 15 minutes later, it resurfaced. This process will be repeated over and over again. According toThe Washington Post, "Chilean officials cautioned that bringing all the miners up could last through Thursday."

President Sebastian Pinera, wearing red coveralls and a hardhat, greeted Avalos and Mario Sepulveda, the second miner to be rescued.

"We had promised to look until we found them," the president said. "We can all feel proud to be Chilean."

From CNN:

Sepulveda cracked jokes in his first moments above ground and led a crowd in a cheer for Chile. As the 40-year-old was hauled away on his stretcher for medical evaluation, he asked his wife, "How's the dog?"

OnAll Things Considered, reporter Annie Murphy said it was no coincidence the rescue operation started at night:

No one really knows what to expect in terms of how these men are going to react to being on the surface, and, obviously, the nighttime environment is much more like the environment they've been in for the last several months.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

David Gura
Based in New York, David Gura is a correspondent on NPR's business desk. His stories are broadcast on NPR's newsmagazines, All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Weekend Edition, and he regularly guest hosts 1A, a co-production of NPR and WAMU.