From the claustrophobic darkness of a hot humid underground cave, to the blaze of a battery of camera lights and a worldwide audience of millions.
First to greet Florencio Avalos was his seven-year-old son. Amid the emotional, jubilant scenes, his wife Monica and Chile’s President Sebastian Piñera would soon follow.
The 31-year-old miner was the first to be winched to safety by Operation Phoenix. After more than two months trapped deep underground, his journey up through the earth took just over 15 minutes. At a little after midnight local time, he was out.
With 32 to go, down went the capsule for the second miner.
If anyone had been worried about Mario Sepulveda’s state of health, they need not have been. The 39-year-old electrical specialist was full of life, describing his rescue as a “miracle from God”.
He said later that working conditions needed to change. But first it was time to celebrate – and release some pent-up energy, as he led watching rescuers in an exuberant chant.
Several more journeys were followed by more joyful reunions between miners and their families.
It was daylight by the time Mario Gomez arrived at the surface, the ninth to be freed. At 63, he is the oldest among the group, and has worked in the mines since he was 12.
He can now look forward to retirement and he plans to marry Lilian, his civil partner of more than 30 years, in a church wedding.
As he prayed, he said quietly: “I’ve come back to life.“
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