San Jose, Oct 14(ANI): Sixty-nine days after the San Jose gold and copper mine collapsed in Chile, the last of the 33 trapped miners was raised from the depths of the earth on Wednesday.
Strapped into a specially-made steel capsule, Luis Urzua, a foreman, stepped out of a torpedo-shaped capsule that lifted him over 2,000 feet to the surface.
It prompted an eruption of applause and cheers that seemed just as heartfelt as the outpouring that followed the emergence of the first miner nearly a day earlier.
Urzua was wearing moisture-resistant green coveralls and a sunglass to protect his eyes.
"Thanks to everybody, thanks to the rescuers, thanks to all of Chile and everyone involved in this operation," the New York Times quoted Urzua, as saying.
Meanwhile, Chilean President Sebastian Pinera called Urzua a "great captain", and said that the miners were an example of "companionship, courage and loyalty".
"You are not the same, and the country is not the same after this. You were an inspiration. Go hug your wife and your daughter," Pinera told Urzua after the completion of the 22 1/2-hour rescue operation.
Urzua was immediately rushed to a nearby medical center for examining the condition of his health.
An estimated 700,000 tonnes of rock collapsed inside the 121-year-old mine in the historically significant mining accident on August 5.
Rescue officials led by a senior United States mine engineer had earlier estimated that it would take three to four months to complete the rescue.
However, the rescue exceeded expectations every step of the way, as it turned out to be 69 days and about eight hours.
Once the escape tunnel was finished, they estimated that it would take 36 to 48 hours to get all the miners to safety, but as the operation went along all the miners were evacuated in 22 hours and 37 minutes.
A rescue worker reached the miners early Tuesday night. Live video taken from the chamber showed the first miner, 31-year-old Florencio Avalos, hugging him and within 15 minutes he reached the surface. (ANI)