London, Sept 18 (ANI): The first of three rescue drills has reportedly reached the 33 Chilean miners trapped half a mile (0.70 kilometre) underground since 5 August, but it will still take weeks to widen the shaft enough to extract the men.
According to The Telegraph, the miners, however, will have to wait till at least early November before the 2,067 feet shaft can be widened and strengthened enough to enable a rescue capsule to bring them one by one to the ground above.
Rene Aguilar, chief engineer of rescue operations at the San Jose mine, said: "If we suffer no more setbacks, the workers could be on the surface in November The task of bringing the men to the surface is also fraught with risk."
Dr James Polk, NASA's chief of space medicine, has said that bringing the men in a small escape pod would be somewhat problematic.
"The men could potentially be standing in the cage between two to four hours, there is a risk of their blood pressure dropping and them losing consciousness," he added.
According to the NASA experts, the ordeal won't be over even after the end of the rescue operation, as the miners might face the greatest challenge of coping with the psychological effects after spending months below ground. They described it as "astronaut syndrome".
"Like astronauts these men have endured a prolonged period in a small enclosure away from their normal atmosphere but in the miners' case they haven't the exhaustive training and preparation," Dr Polk, who is advising the Chilean authorities, said.
"They are going to have a lot of things thrust at them when they get out, a lot of press attention, dealing with family issues and such things thrust upon them very immediately, they will need help to readjust to society. Some could well suffer from post traumatic stress type disorder," he added.
He further predicted that it could take at least twice the length of time they had been trapped to recover from the ordeal. (ANI)