A missile-like escape capsule was lowered into a nearly half-mile-long tunnel in the Chilean desert tonight to carry 33 miners to fresh air and freedom after 69 days—the longest anyone has ever been trapped underground and survived. Mining Minister Laurence Golborne said he hoped the first of the miners would emerge before midnight, a slow process because of the need for methodical testing with a rescue worker inside once all the cables are attached and tested.
Once the first miner is brought to safety, it could take 36 hours or more to free all the men. Families and reporters, meanwhile, huddled around TVs and bonfires as the preliminary rescue order was announced. Florencio Avalos, the 31-year-old second-in-command of the miners, is to be the first miner out. (Read more Chilean miners stories.)