The first of three rescue capsules specially built to bring out 33 Chilean miners trapped underground has been unveiled at the mine.
Once one of the rescue holes being drilled reaches the men, the capsule will haul out the miners one by one.
Relatives and Chile’s mining minister tried out the steel-mesh tube, built at a naval shipyard and dubbed the Phoenix.
“This capsule is fitted with oxygen, with communication equipment, and it also has a system that, in an emergency, allows us to unhinge the bottom part and lower it separately from the part that is held up above,” said Chile’s Mining Minister, Laurence Golborne.
For the miners’ relatives trying out the capsule was an emotional experience.
The miners have now spent nearly two months underground. At first it was thought they wouldn’t be brought out before Christmas. The government now says it should happen by early November.
The minister wouldn’t comment on speculation that the operation might begin even earlier.