The 33 Chilean miners who were trapped underground for 69 days are free.
Foreman Luis Urzua was the last miner to emerge from the rescue capsule to the ecstatic relief of the waiting crowd.
His family was there to greet him, along with Chile’s President Sebastian Pinera, who had remained at the site all day.
Luis Urzua, 54, is said to have been the man who kept order and imposed control when tempers frayed during the miners’ underground ordeal. He took charge of rationing food and drew maps of the tunnels that were accessible to the trapped men.
Pinera said it was a miracle that the 33 had survived and described them as an inspiration. He said that the whole world was watching and that Chile had showed it could do great things when its people pulled together.
During the rescue operation, Pinera and Mining Minister Laurence Golbourne had both vowed to improve Chile’s laws on worker safety – not just for miners but for all workers.
The meeting of the miner’s leader and Chile’s president was an emotional one. Pinera said: “Chile today is not the same country that it was 69 days ago. The miners are not the same as those men who were trapped on the 5th August. They are stronger, and they are a lesson to us all.”
The crowd broke into song, roaring out the Chilean national anthem.