The celebrations in Copiapó continued long into daylight.
The plight of the trapped miners has captured the imagination of the world. But the mining town 800 kilometres north of the capital Santiago has experienced the rescue operation – and the long wait before it – more intensely than most.
When the first man, Florencio Avalos, stepped out of “Fenix 2” it was time for the locals to release all the emotion that had built up over the last 69 days.
The whole country has united behind the trapped miners and in Santiago people were captivated by the rescue. Some stopped in the street to watch events unfold on TV screens. The emotion of the life or death experience of their countrymen was all the more poignant, with memories still fresh of February’s earthquake that killed 300.
“What can I say? I’m just as excited as the people who are up there,” said Maria Zuniga, visibly moved. “I’m very happy with the outcome and hope God continues to be with them. You have to consider that they were buried underground and they’ve been revived.”
Local newspaper front pages were dominated by the rescue. The news was quickly out of date as one-by-one the miners were brought out, but today’s editions are likely to be kept as souvenirs for years to come.