Video: Still in spotlight, miners see bright new day

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    >> reporter: the picture an entire nation waited more than two months to see. all 33 miners alive and well , and free. mean while, outside the regional hospital today, a swarm of onlookers and cameras from all over the world, waited to catch a glimpse of chile's new heroes. and standing in the crowd, a group of teenage girls . hoping to see 19-year-old jimmy sanchez, their newest idol. asked about all the attention rescued miner richard says, it makes you want to cry.

    >> i think they're more anxious to get out from the hospital than they were from the mine.

    >> reporter: inside, family members anxiously waited to see their loved ones. this, after celebrations broke out in chile streets last night. thousands cheering along a parade route of ambulances transporting the 33 miners to the hospital. they were wheeled in like rock stars still wearing their sunglasses. greeted by a flurry of camera flashes. he was the ship leader, and the last miner out in a successful rescue that took less than 24 hours . he surfaced 12 minutes after climbing into the capsule, marking the end of a 70-day nightmare. chile's president told him, your shift is done. i congratulate you. you did your duty and came out last, like a good captain always does. they sang the official song of the miners, with their helmets over their hearts. deep in the mine, before climbing into the capsule themselves, the rescuers

msnbc.com news services
updated 10/14/2010 5:55:34 PM ET 2010-10-14T21:55:34

The first miners will be released from hospital shortly and others will follow Friday and into the weekend, a hospital official said Thursday, heralding the inevitable breakup of the 33 men who forged a bond around the possibility of death, the prospect of hope and the reality of rescue.

"We hope that some of them, two or three, can be released" Thursday, said Jorge Montes, an official at the hospital in Copiapo, where the miners were being treated and where President Sebastian Pinera visited them on Thursday.

Families were being allowed to visit in shifts.

Montes would not disclose which miners would be released first, but emphasized all would continue to receive physical and mental evaluations over time.

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One of the miners had pneumonia and was being treated with antibiotics, and others need dental treatment, but none were suffering from serious health problems.

Experts said the most lasting damage could be emotional.

Relatives were organizing welcome-home parties and trying to hold off an onslaught of demands by those seeking to share in the glory of the amazing rescue.

Pinera on Thursday posed with the miners, most of whom were wearing bathrobes and slippers, for a group photo.

He also invited the miners to visit the presidential palace toward the end of the month for a soccer match against members of his cabinet and himself.

"The team that wins will stay in La Moneda (presidential palace). The team that loses goes back to the mine," he joked.

The billionaire businessman-turned-politician also promised "radical" changes and tougher safety laws to improve how businesses treat their workers.

Video: Anatomy of a successful rescue (on this page)

"Never again in our country will we permit people to work in conditions so unsafe and inhuman as they worked in the San Jose Mine, and in many other places in our country," said Pinera, who took office in March as Chile's first elected right-wing president in a half-century.

None of the miners are suffering from shock despite their harrowing entrapment, a reflection of the care and feeding sent through a narrow borehole by a team of hundreds during their 69 days trapped underground. Even a team of psychologists helped keep them sane.

"All of them have been subjected to high levels of stress and most of them have tolerated it in a truly exceptional way," said Montes. "We don't see any problems of a psychological or a medical nature."

"We were completely surprised," added Health Minister Jaime Manalich. "We called this a real miracle, because any effort we could have made doesn't explain the health condition these people have today."

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After weeks of fear, desperation and finally hope, the miners were pulled out one by one in a capsule that carried them through a narrow tube of solid rock — a dizzying 23-hour marathon of rescues.

Honors and offers of jobs and even vacations poured in from around the world for men who walked into a mine as workers doing a dirty job to support their children or buy a house.

Spain's Real Madrid football team invited the 33 to attend a game in their stadium. Chile's football federation said it would offer a job with its youth teams to Franklin Lobos, a former national team player who had later found himself driving a taxi to make ends meet before he was caught in the mine collapse. It also said it was organizing a "Copa 33" tournament in their honor.

The internationally popular Spanish language variety show "Sabado Gigante" announced it would dedicate a show to "The 33" and invited fans to suggest questions for them.

And a Greek mining company offered to fly each one, with a companion, for a week's vacation in the Mediterranean.

Pinera, meanwhile, vowed that those responsible for the mine collapse "will not go unpunished. Those who are responsible will have to assume their responsibility."

The rescue will end up costing "somewhere between $10 (million) and $20 million," a third covered by private donations with the rest coming from state-owned miner Codelco — the country's largest company— and the government itself, Pinera said.

Mining accounts for 40 percent of the Chilean state's earnings and the rescue's details were run by its operations manager, Andre Sougarret.

Story: Miner profiles, first moments of freedom

The Aug. 5 collapse brought the 125-year-old San Jose mine's checkered safety record into focus and put Chile's top industry under close scrutiny. Many believe the collapse occurred because the mine was overworked and lacked such essential safety features as a reinforced escape shaft.

The families of 27 of the 33 rescued miners have sued its owners for negligence and compensatory damages. A separate suit was being prepared accusing the government of failing to enforce its safety regulations.

Also suing the San Esteban company is Gino Cortez, a 40-year-old miner who lost his lower left leg a month before the mine collapsed when a rock fell on him in an area that lacked a protective metal screen.

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"This mine has to close," rescue coordinator Sougarret said Thursday.

Pinera said he will triple the budget of mine safety agency Sernageomin, whose top regulators he fired after the collapse. He also created a commission to investigate the accident and recommend changes. Some action was swift: The agency shut down at least 18 small mines for safety violations.

"The mine has been proven dangerous, but what's worse are the mine owners who don't offer any protection to men who work in mining," said Patricio Aguilar, 60, of nearby Copiapo, during celebrations of the meticulously executed rescue.

Advances in technology notwithstanding, mining remains a dangerous profession in the smaller mines here in northern Chile, which employ about 10,000 people.

Since 2000, about 34 people have died every year on average in mining accidents in Chile — with a high of 43 in 2008, according to Sernageomin data.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

Photos: Rescue

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  1. Relatives of the 33 Chilean miners celebrate after the rescue of the last miner in Copiapo, Chile, on Wednesday, Oct. 13. The 33 miners had been trapped 700 meters underground since Aug. 5. (Ian Salas / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Rescue workers hold a sign reading "Mission Accomplished Chile" after the last of the 33 trapped miners, Luis Urzua, was lifted from the mine in the Fenix 2 capsule Wednesday. (TVN CHILE) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Chileans celebrate after the last miner was rescued in Copiapo, on Wednesday. The extraordinary two-month survival story many called a 'miracle,' triggered wild celebrations. (Mariana Bazo / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Chilean trapped miners gather inside the San Jose mine as the rescue operation starts in Copiapo on October 13, 2010, in this handout photo by the Chilean navy. (Armada De Chile / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. The last miner to be rescued, Luis Urzua, who is credited with organizing the miners to ration food and save themselves, celebrates next to Chilean President Sebastian Pinera, at right, at the end of the rescue operation at San Jose mine in Copiapo, Wednesday. (Ho / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Chilean trapped miner Luis Urzua, right, who was shift leader when the San Jose mine collapsed in early August, poses next to a rescuer before the start of the operation to hoist them to safety from the mine in Copiapo on October 13, in this handout photo from the Chilean navy. (Armada De Chile / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. People celebrate the end of the successful rescue operation to free 33 trapped miners from the San Jose mine in Copiapo, Chile, Wednesday. (Martin Mejia / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Miner Franklin Lobos, a former professional soccer player, receives a ball as a gift from Chile's President Sebastian Pinera after Lobos became the 27th miner to be rescued from the San Jose mine. (Ho / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Esteban Rojas, 44, kneels in prayer after stepping out from the rescue capsule and becoming the 18th miner to be rescued on Wednesday at the San Jose mine. (Hugo Infante / Chilean Government via Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Raul Bustos, the 30th miner to be rescued, is carried away by stretcher. (Handout / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Franklin Lobos greets a relative after being rescued from the San Jose mine. (Handout / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Roxana Gomez, daughter of rescued miner Mario Gomez, cries as she watches the rescue of her father on a TV screen at the relatives camp outside the San Jose mine near Copiapo, Chile, Wednesday. (Natacha Pisarenko / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Miner Alex Vega reacts show off his t-shirt after being rescued from the mine near Copiapo, Chile on Wednesday. (Hugo Infante / Chilean Government via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Relatives of Chilean miner Victor Zamora watch a TV broadcast of his rescue operation taking place at the San Jose mine. (Ian Salas / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. The oldest of the trapped miners, Claudio Mario Gomez, 59, celebrates as he becomes the ninth to exit the rescue capsule on Wednesday, near Copiapo, Chile. (Chilean Government via Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Roxana Gomez, center, daughter of miner Mario Gomez, and Maria Segovia, right, sister of trapped miner Dario Segovia, react while watching the rescue operations on TV. (Natacha Pisarenko / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Miner Claudio Yanez applauds as medics carry him away on a stretcher after his rescue from the collapsed San Jose gold and copper mine early Wednesday. (Hugo Infante / Chilean government via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Miner Osman Araya, right, greets his wife, Angelica Ancalipe, early Wednesday, moments after he was rescued from the collapsed mine where he had been trapped with 32 others for more than two months. (Hugo Infante / Chilean government via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. People watching a large screen in a public square in Copiapo celebrate as Mario Sepulveda becomes the second miner to reach the surface. (Mariana Bazo / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Miner Mario Sepulveda celebrates after emerging from the rescue capsule. (Hugo Infante / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. People watching television screens in Copiapo celebrate as they watch the first miner to be rescued, Florencio Avalos, emerging safely. (Dario Lopez-mills / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Chilean President Sebastian Pinera embraces rescued miner Florencio Avalos, left, after his rescue. (Jose Manuel De La Maza / Chilean / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. The capsule that is being used to bring the trapped miners to the surface is moved into position at the start of the operation. (David Mercado / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Chilean President Sebastian Pinera, center, observes as the rescue capsule is lowered into the shaft for its final test. (Hugo Infante / Gov. Of Chile / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. Miners greet rescuer Manuel Gonzalez after he arrives at the base of the shaft. (TVN CHILE) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. Relatives and friends of the trapped miners celebrate while watching the rescue of Florencio Avalos on a television screen at a camp outside the mine. (Natacha Pisarenko / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. A man clasps his hands together as if in prayer as he watches the rescue operation on a large screen in Copiapo. (Mariana Bazo / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
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  1. Image: Relatives of the 33 Chilean miners celebrate after the arrival of Luiz Urzúa, the last miner of the group,
    Ian Salas / EPA
    Above: Slideshow (27) Rescue brings joy to families and nation - Rescue
  2. Image: Relatives of trapped miner
    Natacha Pisarenko / AP
    Slideshow (40) Rescue brings joy to families and nation - Cave in
  3. Image: Relatives of trapped miner
    Natacha Pisarenko / AP
    Slideshow (40) Chilean mine collapse

Gallery: Miner profiles, first moments of freedom

Read about each of the 33 miners as they are rescued.

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