No expense spared - WDRB 41 Louisville News

No expense spared

The entire rescue operation was meticulously choreographed, with no expense spared in bringing in topflight drillers and equipment -- and boring three separate holes into the copper and gold mine.

Mining is Chile's lifeblood, providing 40 percent of state earnings, and Clilean President Sebastian Pinera put his mining minister and the operations chief of state-owned Codelco, the country's biggest company, in charge of the rescue.

It went so well that its managers abandoned what a legion of journalists had deemed an ultraconservative plan for restricting images of the rescue. A huge Chilean flag that was to obscure the hole from view was moved aside so the hundreds of cameras perched on a hill above could record images that state TV also fed live.

That included the surreal moment when the capsule dropped for the first time into the chamber, where the bare-chested miners, most stripped down to shorts because of the subterranean swelter, mobbed the rescuer who emerged to serve as their guide to freedom.

"This rescue operation has been so marvelous, so clean, so emotional that there was no reason not to allow the eyes of the world -- which have been watching this operation so closely -- to see it," a beaming Pinera told a news conference after Avalos was brought to the surface.

Florencio Avalos, the 31-year-old second-in-command of the miners, was chosen to be first out because he was in the best condition. When the capsule came out of the manhole-sized opening, Avalos stepped out as bystanders cheered, clapped and broke into a chant of the country's name -- "Chi! Chi! Chi! Le! Le! Le!"

The next three men out, including Mamani of Bolivia, followed because they were deemed the fittest of body and mind. The 10 to follow included miners with health problems such as hypertension, diabetes and skin ulcers.

Mario Sepulveda's shouts were heard even before the capsule surfaced. After hugging his wife, he jokingly handed souvenir rocks from the mine to laughing rescuers. Then he bounded out behind other officials behind a barrier and thrust a fist upward like a prizefighter.

Putting him on a gurney for a short ambulance ride to a triage center -- the protocol for all the miners -- almost seemed like overkill.

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