The relatives of Chile’s trapped miners are calling it the light of the end of the tunnel.
Celebrations broke out when it was announced that rescuers have finished drilling an escape shaft.
That means the operation to pull the 33 men out of the damaged mine they have been in for more than two months may begin in just a few days.
Chile’s mining minister, Laurence Golborne, says the first evacuations will probably begin on Wednesday.
“We’re on the brink of the rescue happening,” said one of the relatives. “This is so emotional for us, the families. We’ve had so much pain, so much sorrow, and now there’s joy.”
The Chilean president also could not hide his delight.
“I hope the rescue happens next week,” said
Sebastián Piñera. “Whether it’s Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday, that’s not important. What’s important is to bring them out alive in a safe operation.”
The men have already broken a world record for the length of time workers have survived underground after a mining accident.
Having lasted on food delivered via narrow tubes, experts say the men are in remarkably good health.