The first of 33 trapped miners has been pulled to safety in a capsule barely wider than a man's shoulders, an emotional breakthrough as a two-month ordeal inside a Chilean mine nears its end. Skip related content
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Rescuers, relatives and friends broke into jubilant cheers as 31-year-old father-of-two Florencio Avalos emerged on the surface to breathe his first fresh air in 69 days after a claustrophobic ascent of around 2,050 feet through thick rock.
Rescuer Manuel Gonzalez took 17 minutes to descend the shaft and he was hugged by the waiting miners. He then took just minutes to buckle Avalos into the capsule and send him to the surface.
Relatives rushed to hug and kiss Avalos, who walked out of the capsule looking healthy after his nearly 16-minute ascent. He was then embraced by President Sebastian Pinera as the surrounding crowd chanted "Chile! Chile!"
The men have spent 69 days in the hot, humid bowels of the gold and copper mine in Chile's northern Atacama desert. For the first 17 days, they were all believed to be dead, and their record-breaking story of survival has captured the world's attention.
Nervous wives, children, parents and friends waited on an arid, rocky hillside above the San Jose mine as rescue teams started an evacuation expected to take up to 48 hours.
Pinera earlier sang to the strums of a guitar played by Mining Minister Laurence Golborne around a campfire as relatives waited anxiously for their loved ones.
The specially-made steel cages are equipped with oxygen masks and escape hatches in case they get stuck.
Jessica Salgado's nerves jangled as she waited for her husband Alex to emerge.
"The first thing I'm going to do is hug him hard, tell him how much I love him and how I've missed him all this time," she said.
Rescuers on Monday successfully tested a capsule, dubbed "Phoenix" after the mythical bird that rose from the ashes, after reinforcing part of the narrow escape shaft with metal casing to prevent rocks falling and blocking the exit.
Each man's journey to safety should take about 15 minutes. The capsule travels at about 3 feet per second, or a casual walking pace, and can speed to 10 feet per second if the miner being carried gets into trouble.
They have been told to keep their eyes closed and will be given dark glasses to avoid damaging their eyesight after spending so long in a dimly-lit tunnel. They will then be under observation at a nearby hospital for two days.