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Mision cumplida: Joy of a nation as miners emerge to worldwide fame

14 OCTOBER 2010

Chile is celebrating the return of all the men they call Los 'Treinta y Tres' – the 33 miners trapped deep below the Atacama desert since August 5.

Just after 9.55pm local time, Luis Urzua, the foreman, was brought to the surface of the San Jose mine.

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The last to be rescued, he was embraced by President Sebastian Piñera and told: "Your shift is over".

Luis, a veteran of the industry with 31 years experience, is credited with keeping a spirit of unity and discipline that was vital to their survival.

Their 54-year-old 'captain' persuaded them to eke out their rations – each man had one mouthful of tuna every 48 hours – until their discovery after 17 days.

Then when they were found miraculously alive he organised his colleagues into work teams, keeping everyone busy with individual tasks.

And in his last few hours underground, he even made them laugh.

"They finally took him away, we were all tired of him!' he joked as Mario Sepulveda, the group's showman, became the second man to be winched to the surface.

 

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As television pictures of Luis' own rescue were shown In the nearby town of Copiapo where most of the miners live, their fellow citizens erupted into cheers of joy and flew the national flag.

And 2,030ft below in the 30 degree hole, where the men spent 69 days, rescue workers held up a sign that read simply: Misión cumplida, Chile – Mission accomplished, Chile.

More photos from the rescue mission.

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