BEACONSFIELD, Australia – Rescuers on Monday used a narrow tube to feed a protein drink and water to two gold miners trapped a half-mile underground for nearly a week.
The discovery Sunday that the men were alive overjoyed this tightly knit community of about 3,000 on the island state of Tasmania.
It could take two more days to extricate the miners, however. Workers must create a tunnel through 40 feet of collapsed rock without triggering a cave-in like the one that trapped them April 25 and killed another miner.
Brant Webb, 37, and Todd Russell, 34, apparently were saved by a slab of rock that fell onto the cage of their cherry-picker and prevented smaller rocks from hitting them after a small earthquake.
Wedged inside the cramped cage nearly 3,000 feet under ground, they drank rancid water that dripped through the rocks. Enough oxygen got through to keep them alive.
On Sunday, rescuers drilled a tiny tunnel to the miners. After feeding a cameraman's microphone through the narrow hole, they established communication with the men.
Russell's first words were short and to the point: "It's (expletive) cold and cramped in here. Get us out!"
Their first request after that was for a breakfast of bacon and eggs.
The news the men had survived unleashed a wave of relief over the men's families and other townspeople.
"When a man rushed through the door, covered in mud and crying, we thought that was the bad news," said Michael Kelly, Webb's father-in-law. "He burst into the room and fell down on his knees in front of (Webb's wife Rachael) and sobbed 'He's alive."'
However, the joy was tempered by sympathy for the family of Larry Knight, who was crushed in the initial collapse and whose body was retrieved Thursday. Members of Knight's family were among hundreds of people who converged on Russell's home Sunday night.
"Larry's family ... told us how lucky we were and shared our happiness, with their grief. I was grateful," Russell's father Noel told Australian television's Seven network. "They were the brave people."
Prime Minister John Howard paid tribute Monday to the people of Beaconsfield, saying they had shown "incredible resilience" as they waited for news of the missing men.
"All Australians will share the joy of the families of the two miners found alive at Beaconsfield, and that of the local community," he said. "We must all hope that the two men are safely brought to the surface, and reunited with their loved ones."
Despite their agonizing ordeal, Russell's family members had not lost their sense of humor Monday.
"Todd's putting in for meal allowance, overtime pay and living away from home allowance, so I hope they've got their check book ready," Russell's mother Kaye said.
In January, 14 miners died in two accidents at mines in West Virginia. In Mexico, 65 miners died in February after an explosion trapped them underground.
However, in Canada, 72 potash miners walked away from an underground fire and toxic smoke in January after being locked down overnight in airtight chambers with oxygen, food and water.