Chilean workers are reinforcing an escape shaft that will be used to rescue 33 miners trapped underground for more than two months.
Workers began placing lengths of metal tube into the shaft Sunday, to ensure that a specially made rescue capsule will not snag as it moves up and down the shaft, bringing the miners up one at a time.
Chile’s mining minister Laurence Golborne says the rescue will likely begin on Wednesday, after a pulley system is installed.
The drill digging the escape shaft finally broke through to the miners’ underground chamber Saturday, sparking celebrations among rescue workers and family members waiting for the miners to be brought back to safety.
In a drama that unfolded before television cameras from around the world, bells rang and sirens blared signaling that the escape shaft had been completed.
Engineers embraced and jumped for joy. Relatives waiting at what has been nicknamed “Camp Hope” laughed and cried. Some described the moment as “overwhelming.”
The miners have been trapped since part of the mine collapsed Aug. 5. Crews have been sending food, water, games, letters and other items to the men through small supply shafts.
A team of 16 paramedics and rescue experts has been preparing to help bring the miners to the surface. Authorities say some of the team will join the miners underground to make their journey as easy as possible.
Chilean navy engineers and mining experts helped build the rescue capsule, known as the Phoenix. The capsule is about half-a-meter wide and includes an oxygen supply and a phone to communicate with rescue crews on the surface.
Some of the miners appear to have skin infections and have complained of dental problems. Officials say once the miners are rescued they will be carried by helicopter to a nearby hospital for medical treatment.
The 65-day ordeal is the longest time that workers trapped in a mining accident have survived underground.
Chilean President Sebastian Pinera has vowed a complete investigation into the accident that caused the cave-in in a deep section of the mine.