Chilean President Sebastian Pinera was euphoric in the early hours of Wednesday, minutes after the first of 33 miners reached the surface.
“In this rescue operation we Chileans have shown the best of us,” Mr. Pinera told a press conference at the San Jose copper mine. The miners were trapped August 5 by a shaft collapse in this barren northern Chile desert landscape.
He described the experience as “a wonderful night that Chileans and the whole world will never forget.” “Let the miners’ example stay with us forever,” Mr. Pinera said.
Pinera thanked God and the rescue teams for the success of the operation, stressing it was unprecedented in the history of the world for its magnitude and complexity.
“The first miner has been rescued in a way that really makes all Chileans proud,” he said.
He said that his government will seek to enforce worker safety in mining and other sectors.
Mr. Pinera noted the “magic number 33,” with reference to the number of miners trapped since August 5 at the San Jose copper mine under the Atacama Desert and to the date of the final rescue, October 13, 2010, which when written in numbers and added up also gives 33.
“I want to recall the first days, when we did not know whether (the miners) were alive, we did not know if they were dead,” he said.
“We committed ourselves to looking for them, and we have delivered.”