World

The Miner, the Mistress, the Kiss

When miner Yonny Barrios found out he was going to be brought to the surface he asked for both his wife and mistress to greet him at the top. His wife was no where to be found and in a rather awkward exchange, the world watched Barrios and his mistress affectionately embrace each other with a hug and a kiss.

The 21st man pulled out, Barrios, 50, got a big hug and several kisses from his girlfriend Susana Valenzuela after reaching the surface. His wife learned of Valenzuela's existence when the two women met at the camp where relatives of the miners kept vigil.

No one in recorded history has survived as long trapped underground as the 33 men. For the first 17 days, no one even knew whether they were alive. In the weeks that followed, the world was captivated by their endurance and unity.

Health Minister Jaime Manalich told a news conference after eight miners were rescued that all of them were in good health, and none has required any special medication, not even the diabetic among them.

Chile exploded in joy and relief at the first, breakthrough rescue just after midnight in the coastal Atacama desert.

In the capital, Santiago, a cacophony of car horns sounded. In the nearby regional capital of Copiapo, from which 24 of the miners hail, the mayor canceled school so parents and children could "watch the rescue in the warmth of the home."

News channels from North America to Europe and the Middle East carried live coverage. Pope Benedict XVI said in Spanish that he "continues with hope to entrust to God's goodness" the fate of the men. Iran's state English-language Press TV followed events live until President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad touched down in Lebanon on his first state visit there.

The images beamed worldwide were extraordinary: Grainy footage from beneath the earth showed each miner climbing into the 13-foot-tall capsule, then disappearing upward through an opening. Then a camera showed the pod steadily rising through the dark, smooth-walled tunnel.

After the fifth miner made his ascent — 19-year-old Jimmy Sánchez, the youngest and the father of a months-old baby — the rescuers paused to lubricate the spring-loaded wheels that gave the capsule a smooth ride through the shaft, then resumed the rescues.

The ninth, Mario Gómez, who at 63 is the oldest miner, dropped to his knees after he emerged, bowed his head in prayer and clutched the Chilean flag. His wife, Liliane Ramírez, pulled him up from the ground and embraced him.

Gómez is most experienced of the group, first entering a mine shaft to labor at age 12, and suffers from silicosis, a lung disease common to miners. He has been on antibiotics and bronchial inflammation medicine. Manalich said Gómez came up with a special oxygen mask.

The lone foreigner among the miners, Carlos Mamani of Bolivia, was visited at a nearby clinic by Piñera and Bolivian President Evo Morales. The miner could be heard telling the Chilean president how nice it was to breathe fresh air and see the stars.

Most of the men emerged clean-shaven. Crews had lowered packages dubbed "palomas," Spanish for carrier pigeons, to get food and medicine to the men during their weeks underground, and in the days before rescue they were sent razors and shaving cream.

The entire rescue operation was meticulously choreographed, with no expense spared in bringing in topflight drillers and equipment — and boring three separate holes into the copper and gold mine.

Mining is Chile's lifeblood, providing 40 percent of state earnings, and Piñera put his mining minister and the operations chief of state-owned Codelco, the country's biggest company, in charge of the rescue.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.