Relatives of the 33 miners trapped 700 metres underground for a month held an emotional videoconference after improved communications equipment was lowered to the workers.

Each miner was given a minute to talk with three relatives, to bring them closer together during the ordeal, which could last until December.

“It was exciting. I really wanted to reach in and pull him out of the television screen,” Antonia Godoy, mother of miner Richard Villarroel, told state television station TVN.

The relatives said they were pleased to be able to see their loved ones, with whom they had only had telephone conversations.

Emotions ran high in the Esperanza mining camp Saturday with the appearance of four of the 16 Uruguayan rugby players who survived 73 days in the Andes mountains after their plane crashed in 1972.

Jose Luis Inciarte, Gustavo Zerbino, Pedro Algorta and Ramon Sabella came to give moral support to the trapped miners.

“When all this is over and the years pass, and they are old like us, these problems that are occurring here now will seem small to them compared to the joy of life, Sabella said.

Rene Aguilar, risk manager of the rescue team, said the Strata 950 boring device had advanced to a depth of 42 metres. Operators installed the T—130 machine to begin Sunday with the next phase of widening one of the shafts that runs near the miners’ refuge.

The trapped workers maintain a strict regimen of activities and nutrition to withstand the humid conditions, temperatures reaching 35 degrees Celsius and low oxygen.

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