Chile’s Minister of Mines has been in touch with trapped miners by telephone, through a narrow shaft piercing the 700 metres of rock. He said the men were well, and they had cheered and sung the national anthem.
Their families wrote letters to be passed to the men to help keep their spirits up.
The 33 men have received glucose, hydration gels and medicine down a tube system. Drilling a new shaft to bring them to the surface could take up to four months. They have survived 18 days since the copper and gold mine cave-in.
As new heavy drilling equipment arrived, one of the relatives said the waiting was less anguished now, and that everyone was much more hopeful of a happy ending.
It is rare for trapped miners to survive this long. They have been in a 50-square-metre refuge area. Officials figure they may be nine kilos lighter, each man is on rations of a couple of mouthfuls of tuna and half a glass of milk every 48 hours.
President Sebastian Pinera in Santiago has promised to reform safety regulations. In recent years 16 workers have been killed in the small San José mine. Resisted by the centre-left opposition, Pinera has been trying to raise mining royalties, to help rebuild Chile, which was hit by a massive earthquake in February.