Return to Transcripts main page


Continuing Chilean Miner Rescue Coverage

Aired October 13, 2010 - 01:00   ET


MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers around the world and here in the United States as well, joining us for the first time. It was the moment the world had been waiting to see for more than two months.

COLLEEN MCEDWARDS, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: The first of 33 trapped miners, right there, being hoisted to safety.

HOLMES: And look at the sheer relief on the faces of family members. Plenty of hugs all around.

MCEDWARDS: Yes, hugs, applause, all of it. Now this happened just before 11:00 Eastern, just around 11:00 Eastern time. That was about two hours. Then just over an hour later, we had the second rescue.

HOLMES: Yes, and there it is. This one was filled with pure joy. Look at that, wife of this miner just going through an absolute range of emotions in the minutes leading up to his emerging. And he does emerge. He was the joker. Wasn't he?

MCEDWARDS: He was known as the joker underground, narrated a lot of videos. Watch what happens here when he steps out of the Phoenix rescue pod.

HOLMES: His wife had gone through that range of emotion. Nerves, joy, and now jubilation.

MCEDWARDS: A beautiful hug for the wife there. And in just a moment, you will see him reach for his bag.

HOLMES: That's right. He came bearing gifts. Yes, he takes the bag off. People are wondering what it is he is doing. He reach in and what does he come out with?

MCEDWARDS: We're told these are souvenir rocks.

HOLMES: Rocks. He came out with rocks and he hands they will to the president and the mines minister. Gifts for the VIPs and then hugs.

MCEDWARDS: That's a beautiful thing right there. OK, so that is two down right there -- two up, I guess we should say -- 31 to go. And we want to show you how the scene looks right now.

HOLMES: Yes. Live pictures there coming to the -- to us from the scene of this rescue. We just saw -- just a little while ago, we saw miner number three depart from his underground prison it's been for the last 69 days or so. He's on his way up. He shouldn't be too long, really.

MCEDWARDS: Yes. we are waiting for the arrival of the third miner, Juan Illanes Palma, 52-years-old.

We've been so caught up in this, I don't think we've introduced ourselves yet. We should probably do that.

I'm Colleen McEdwards with CNN International.

HOLMES: And I'm Michael Holmes. We've been covering this for viewers around the world today. I want to welcome our U.S. viewers joining us as we continue to watch this amazing rescue effort in progress.

MCEDWARDS: Yes, absolutely. Let's get the latest now on what's happening at the mine. And Karl Penhaul has been following the miners' saga since day one. He joins us right now live from the San Jose Mine in Chile.

Karl, what is going on right now? What stage are we at with the rescue of this third miner on his way to the surface?

KARL PENHAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think you guys are absolutely right. Our names really don't matter tonight, do they? The names that matter are Florencio Avaros, first miner out of the hole, Mario Sepulveda, miner number two out of the hole. And the other name that matters is Juan Illanes. He's third miner out of the hole. He's on his way up.

He is possibly just three minutes from the surface. And after we've heard those three names, we then want to hear 30 more names. We want to count them back up to the surface. They went down underground on a normal day back on August 5th. And at about 2:00 p.m. on that day, that day became far from normal. One day turned into a long nightmare for 33 miners and 33 of their families.

And now that nightmare is coming to an end. And believe me, when we look on the looks of the families' faces, we can see such a range of emotions. They don't know how to feel. They have been through stress. They have been through anxiety. They have literally been through this pain of not knowing whether their loved ones are alive or dead.

Now they know they're alive. They know they're on the way back to the surface. And we've seen that joy reflected here at Camp Hope. Camp Hope was a makeshift tent city -- a tent village, if you like, out here in the Atacama Desert, at the mouth of the San Jose Golden Copper Mine.

By day here, it is boiling hot. By night, it is freezing cold. But 33 families refused to give up. They've given us all an example of resistance and of love. They stood by those miners. They refused to believe for the first 17 days that their loved ones had died. Most of them say that they never gave up hope.

And tonight they're celebrating. When the first miner came up, Florencio Avalos, the families here all broke into a spontaneous rendition of the Chilean and national anthem. Must say that they gasped as well when they saw the first images of the Phoenix Two actually getting down into the mine.

None of us really expected that the Chilean government had organized this so well with their fiber optic video cables. We did expect to see a live video feed of the rescue workers and the Phoenix Capsule going in from the surface.

But what took us by surprise was when they cut at zero meters, and cut to show us the red, white and blue Phoenix Capsule painted in the colors of the Chilean flag actually down in the mine, and the 33 miners flocking around it. That point was a total wow factor for the relatives here.

They also laughed as well as Mario Sepulveda came up to the surface. As you guys were saying there, he was the joker in the pack. In all the videos that have been sent by the miners back to the surface, he has tried to keep spirits high. He has joked and laughed with the miners and they have responsible to him in kind. And he was true to the last.

He wasn't supposed to bring anything in the Phoenix Capsule. All along, we've known that to get into that 55 centimeter diameter capsule, it was going to be a struggle. You had to take a deep intake of breath just to fit in. Well, this joker brought up a whole bag of rocks. And he handed out a gray rock to the president and the mines minister.

MCEDWARDS: He certainly did.

PENHAUL: Thank you very much for getting us back.

MCEDWARDS: He certainly did, Carl. I'm just going to jump in here, because we want to just alert our viewer to the fact that the third miner, as you mentioned, Juan Illanes Palma, 52 years old, is very close to the surface, we believe now. I believe that is his wife who is waiting there by the site where he is about to come up.

So just to let you know where we are at in this process. And as soon as we know he is close, we'll definitely alert you to that as well. Karl, thanks so much.

HOLMES: Yes. Stick around, Karl. We'll get back to you. I want to go now to the town of Copiapo, eagerly waiting for every good bit of news. It has been very festive in Copiapo, which is the town close to where the San Jose Mine is, and Camp Hope, where all the action is going on with -- where Karl Is and also Gary Tuchman.

But Patrick Oppmann, you've been seeing plenty of action there, too. Wait, wait one minute, Patrick.

This is the one we've been waiting for. Let's pause.


HOLMES: Third trip to the surface for the Phoenix Two capsule. A subdued spouse here compared to number two.

MCEDWARDS: Yes, yes. This is -- I hate to say it -- going almost like clockwork. We had the first one around 11:00 Eastern, 12:00, 1:00 in the morning Eastern, hour by hour.

We see she's very emotional. She is absolutely caught up in this. Juan Illanes Palma, 52 years old, is in that capsule. He has been waiting a long time for this trip. We're about to see him step out.


HOLMES: We should point out, if you haven't heard already, all the men are coming up wearing those dark glasses, after 69 days underground, to protect their eyes. Even at night, this scene is lit up.


MCEDWARDS: Oh, yes. There's the money shot. Gorgeous.

HOLMES: They point out, too, that it has been planned all along that the fittest of the miner would come up first. The first four or five will be the fittest of the miners. Why? Because in case something went wrong, they would perhaps physically be in better shape to take care of an emergency situation.

And I think the next group after that are those who are least well, or least fit, so they can get some medical attention.

MCEDWARDS: And indeed, once they get to the surface now, the medical attention begins. Once these welcomes, these moments, this moment of emotion is past, he will actually to go a gurney. He'll be wheeled into a triage area. He'll be examined. He will go into a tented area where he'll be able to meet with a small group of family members, and then will take a helicopter ride to a local hospital where the treatment, the observation will be continued. They want to make sure these guys are OK.

HOLMES: They have two medevac helicopters standing by. They're doing ferrying run to that hospital. Interesting note on the choppers, too, they're using apparently night vision goggles, the pilots. So they have asked that people keep off that road from the mine site to Copiapo, because the headlights -- if there were too many headlights, it would interfere with the night vision goggles. So they've asked them not to drive that road.

MCEDWARDS: Interesting too, you know, the intention is to keep this going, this rescue going. It is not to stop unless something unthinkable happens and they have to stop. So at some point -- it is a little after 2:00 in the morning local time. At some point this is going to be happening in daylight. That's when those glasses, all of that protective gear for these miners who have been down in the dark for so long, are going to become even more important. There he is down on the gurney.

HOLMES: Yes, just unbelievable scene. Patrick Oppmann, sorry to interrupt you before. You're in Copiapo. I assume another cheer went up there as we saw that capsule come to the surface.

PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Seeing things are going here now -- third time this has happened -- there is kind of a strange rhythm to it. It gets very, very quiet here, people holding their breath, just waiting for that first image of the miner to come out of the hole. And then all of a sudden, the crowd just explodes. People, as you see, getting --

Atlanta, , you guys have to give me some heads up. I can't hear. It sounds like Michael is tossing to me.

HOLMES: Patrick, you're up. Carry on, my friend. We've been listening to you. Carry on. You were telling us about what happens --

OPPMANN: -- some miscommunication here. Yes, yes. Just an amazing --

HOLMES: We're losing the signal again. We're having some problems out at Copiapo tonight, keeping that signal reliable.

Karl I think is still there. Karl, it is an extraordinary situation. And we have to keep reminding ourselves that while this looks like an organized event, that it is all happening just as if it was scripted, a lot of work has gone into it. But this is still a very dangerous operation that continues.

PENHAUL: It still is a very dangerous operation. I think we tended to forget that, even through part of the drilling operation, because we did see those videos coming up frequently, with miners smiling and joking. We also saw celebrations among family members here on the surface when breakthrough happened, for example.

But make no mistake about it, a collapse could have happened in that mine. Another collapse at any time, because that mine has been mined now for more than 130 years. And according to miners who have been down in there, they say that it has been badly over-mined. There is very little support structure in many of those tunnels. They say other parts of the mine could have collapsed at any moment.

Also, Chile on the Pacific rim of fire. There is always a danger of earthquakes that could have brought more of the mine crashing down. So throughout this whole 69 days, those miners, make no mistake, every minute have been in a struggle for life or death.

And even as they're being brought up, this is very much uncharted territory. This kind of rescue has not been attempted before, as far as we know. And there are a number of problems that could occur. So far, everything is going smoothly.

There is always the chance of some rock falls, some small rocks, breaking off from inside that rescue shaft and crashing into the Phoenix Capsule. Even though it is made of metal, just imagine that the damage a heavy rock could do if it fell several hundred meters on to the rescue cage. That has not happened. Rescuers are trying to avoid that kind of thing. The other problem that rescuers have cause -- are very keen to avoid is any kind of medical problem with the miners themselves. That's why they're pumping a supply of enriched oxygen into the Phoenix Capsule. That's why they've made such a big effort, Putting video and audio links into the capsule, so that the miners have constant communication with the surface.

They can feedback technical information. But if they begin to panic, they can immediately get in contact with psychologists as well.

There has also been every effort to mitigate any effects that might occur if that rescue capsule started to spin on the way up. That is why over the last six hours, prior to these miners' ascent, they've been fed a liquid diet supplied by NASA. That to help against the effects of nausea on the way up, Michael.

So yes, although they're making it look easy, and although with these very sophisticated fiber optic signals, they're showing us every step of the way of this rescue process, it still very much is a dangerous situation that they are so far making look remarkably easy.

HOLMES: Yes, absolutely right. A real cooperation, too. A number of countries involved in getting us to this point. We're watching this unfold. I don't want to be cynical here, Karl, but this has been, as we said, a made for TV event in how this has all unfolded live on national television, international television as well.

For Mr. Pinera, the president, it has really been a boon to his popularity. You have a right wing billionaire president who is now sort of the man of the people.

PENHAUL: We made that point on September 19th, when he showed up just the day after Independence Day celebrations. He was seen then kissing a baby born to one of the miners' wives. He was also seen signing one of the drill bits, autographing it.

It is true that at the start of his administration, President Pinera face ad backlash from the voters, not only because he was the first right wing president since General Pinochet, the dictator, but also because of the pace of government reconstruction after the February earthquake was seen as too slow, and also because there were problems with the independence-minded Mafucha (ph) Indians.

But certainly this rescue effort, he has gambled his political existence on it. And it has paid off for him. His popularity ratings have risen in tandem with this rescue operation. Many people here, including his political opponents, say right now let's give him credit; he deserves it.

HOLMES: Yes, and not doing any harm by being there to greet everyone of those miners so far on the way up. Karl, do stick around. Great reporting as always. We'll be checking in with you in the minutes and hours ahead. Colleen?

MCEDWARDS: All right, Michael. Thank you. Let's bring in Gary Tuchman on this as well, because he is watching all of this unfold from a very different vantage point. Gary, what's going on where you are?

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Colleen, it has been an amazing, magical evening watching these miners come up from the surface. Right behind us -- we're about 600 meters away from the site of where these rescues are taking place. We now have three down, 30 to go.

At this rate, it will take about 36 hours. So it will continue into Thursday, maybe Friday morning. But the fact is -- the most significant fact -- when that first miner came up, it proved that this capsule could successfully carry a human being from below the ground, way below the ground == some of them have been there 68 days -- and successfully bring him up here to his family.

So while it was a great thrill for his family and his friends to have him back, it told the other relatives and the other friends of the 32 other miners that they too would very likely be carried successfully aboard the Phoenix. That's what's happening.

What is interesting about the situation is we are the closest civilians to the rescue site. I'm here with about 150 other journalists. It has dwindled down a little bit now that we've had three miners successfully returned to us.

But even though we're the closest civilians, we're getting the worst view of it. Our viewers, you are getting a much better view because you have the monitors. It's giving you these amazing close-up pictures. We have to take a five-minute walk to get to the closest monitor, to take a look at it.

Nevertheless, being here and focusing on the whole picture, and seeing the family members drive up in their cars to be able to greet their loved ones, and seeing them then transported to the reunion centers where the families and the miners get to talk and kiss and hug in private -- it is just a remarkable feeling to be part of this situation.

MCEDWARDS: Gary, you know what's interesting, too, there has been quite a level of transparency in this whole process. I'm amazed that we're getting pictures as close as we are, and that we've had so much information about the process, so much informing about what went on under the ground in the days and weeks leading up to this and what is going on now. It's really unprecedented in so many ways.

TUCHMAN: It is really something that we obviously have never experience, in the term of the mining industry or the journalism industry. And we may never experience this again. Normally, Colleen, when we cover mining disasters, mining collapses, we usually are scared to admit and we usually end up admitting that it is a tragic situation.

I myself, just a few years ago, covered a mine collapse in Utah, the Crandall Canyon Mine. And they didn't know if the miners were dead or not. It was similar to this in that they were looking for them. They weren't successful finding them. At one point, in an effort to be transparent, the owner of the mine let me and two other journalists to go into the mine. We had to take a half-hour train ride into the mine, way down below, as they searched for the miners. He said, OK, if you want to see what's going on, you come in.

We had to take a mine safety course before we went in. We went in while they were looking for the miners. It turned out the miners they were looking for ended up dying. And then sadly, a few days later, the people who took us into the mine, three of them also died when there was a secondary collapse. Very scary for us because we were in the mine with those people, very sad for us. It shows you how mining stories can be quite a bit different.

MCEDWARDS: And how quickly thing can go wrong. Goodness knows, we hope that is not the case here, Gary. Absolutely, as we watch this unfold. Gary Tuchman there on the scene. Gary, thank you so much.

Just in case you're just joining us, 33 miners have now become 30. Thirty trapped miners, three safely brought to the surface over the last hours of this delicate operation.

You know, there are physical issues here. Obviously, these miners have been in terrible conditions for more than two months. But another big issue here is what the psychological damage may be from this, and what sort of psychological challenges these miners now face as they come to the surface, and at some point obviously want to try to resume their lives. Right?

So we're joined now by Paula Bloom. She is a clinical psychologist. She is actually from Chile. Her family is from Chile. So it's great to have you here. How are you feeling as you're watching this?

PAULA BLOOM, CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST: Oh, my god. I'm just -- again, Viva Chile -- very excited. It is really interesting, as you were talking about the challenges -- you know, it is these moments in life where people have these incredible challenges and opportunities. This is an opportunity for an emotional reboot, a spiritual reboot. This is 00 these are those moments in life, those existential moments where you get to decide which direction do I want to go? So I'm so excited to se what adventure these guys are going to be on.

MCEDWARDS: Yes, it is going to be an adventure. It is going to be challenging though, too, right? What are sort of the Psych 101, the basics of what they're going to face and what the people who are treating them are going to be watching for?

BLOOM: Well, it's really important. What you really want to look at is how people are functioning, just generally how are you functioning. How is your concentration? Your focus? Are you sleeping? Sleeping is one of the most important things. How are you eating? What's going on with their relationships?

There is going to be a whole new re-acquainting kind of process with their family members. It is great that they had contact throughout this, which is wonderful.

But it is just a lot. It is a lot. Can you imagine going from --


BLOOM: So here they've had all of these different starts. They had the 17 days where they didn't know what was going on.

MCEDWARDS: Where they thought they were going to die.

BLOOM: Totally.


BLOOM: Amazing. Then they get found. Then they have this umbilical cord of connection. Really, to me, this feels like a birth. I'm watching this and I'm watching the women watch. And it is like all the emotions of a birth. You know, that last trimester, that last week of your pregnancy is the one that feels like the longest. I'm wondering if that is what this has been like.

MCEDWARDS: You think of the amount of time this group of men has been down there. There is such an age range. There's such a background range really. How important is it going to be moving forward that they stay connected, that they kind of keep this group together?

BLOOM: Well, they're going to be the only guys who get it. No one else is going to totally get it. People might say, oh, I'm so sorry. I understand. No one gets it. They get it. So that will be important.

But I'm wondering, also, if they want a little bit of distance from these guys, too. Geez, they've been all together for all this time. So I think it is going to be sort of a push-pull, push-pull. I think it is going to be very difficult for the family.

MCEDWARDS: Interesting, too, because, let's face it, this is the time in which we live -- it is going to be very difficult for these -- you know, they're world famous. Let's face it. They're not going to just be able to go back to their towns, back to their lives anonymously. I've seen reports that the men have agreed to, you know, stick together, stay quiet. But they're going to be offered money for their stories. There are going to be films. There are going to be books. There's going to be pressure to talk. Some may want to talk.

That's a whole other level of potential trouble here, right? They're going to be hounded for their stories. They are.

BLOOM: Yes. And I don't know how these individuals are going -- yes, I don't know how those negotiations are going to go. Really, no leaks? In this day and age, it's hard to imagine.

MCEDWARDS: Psychologically to face that -- you're trying to recover from this and then you have to sort of decide, what am I going to do with this?

BLOOM: Right, it is. Ultimately, all of this time that they were in the mine, there were a lot of things they didn't have control over. Their mindset, this is what it shows you. This ultimately -- the way you think about things and the choices you make, this is where your control is.

MCEDWARDS: Yes. Paula Bloom, thank you.

BLOOM: Thank you so much.

MCEDWARDS: Appreciate your thoughts on this.

Earlier I talk with Greg Hall from Houston. He own a drilling supply company that actually worked on the Plan B drilling system, as they called, when they figured out how they were going to get that hole down there. He is one of the experts, one of the engineers who actually worked on the system and got that hole dug, which broke through to the mine orders Saturday. Listen to this.


GREG HALL, PLAN B ENGINEER: He was extremely professional. Everything we asked him he did promptly. He did ask us a couple times, come on, when are you going to get me out? When are you going to get me out? That was pretty hard, because we didn't want to tell him because we didn't really know.

MCEDWARDS: How significant, Greg, an engineering feat, if you will, was it to actually get this hole drilled?

HALL: It was by far the hardest hole I've ever seen in my 25 years experience. Talking to my peers, they say they think it was the hardest ever. But I want to make clear, we had a team. We had the state-of-the-art Cluster Hammers from Center Rock and Grandon Fisher (ph). We had the greatest drillers come in from Lane, from Afghanistan, the American drillers. My people, it was a real team. We became a family. We just refused to quit and refused to not be successful.

MCEDWARDS: Did I hear you right? You're from Texas, right? You're from the United States. Did I hear you say somebody from Afghanistan? This was a global team.

HALL: Well, they were American drillers that came from Afghanistan. And of course, I've had a company in Chile for 20 years. But it was a really -- we called ourselves the Family. And we work like a family. And we cared about each other. And we worked to get these guys home.

MCEDWARDS: You're an expert in this technology, Greg, but I know you've never faced a situation like this before. How did you decide, you know, what to use, what approach to use? And I'm curious, how did you decide how big that hole needed to be or I guess could be?

HALL: Well, to me, it seems it wasn't that hard, because first thing I did is I wanted to see what technology was available the quickest. And so there was only two rigs, T-130s, which we used, in Chile. So I knew that was the biggest rig could I use.

The drill pipe that I make, the seven inch drill pipe that was there in Chile, I knew that that was the biggest drill pipe I could use. We started going back from there. And then again, as I said, Brandon Fisher, with the state-of-the-art Cluster Hammers out of Pennsylvania, we got in touch with each other and started talking and slowly formed a plan that we really felt would work. And more importantly than that, the government had enough faith in us to let us try it.

MCEDWARDS: I don't know if this is a dumb question or not, but is all this technology that you used and what you're talking about here -- is this technology meant to be used just in the normal drilling process or in an emergency kind of rescue situation like this?

HALL: What we did has -- I don't think has ever been done before. We were using normal drilling processes that would usually be used for a four or six inch hole. But to follow a pilot hole with a 28 inch hole, finishing with a 26 inch hole in that kind of rock, with all the curves that we had to go around, nobody would ever do that. Nobody would ever do that. But we had to because we had men down there.

MCEDWARDS: Was there ever a point, Greg, where you thought maybe this was not going to work? Maybe you weren't going to break through and reach those miners?

HALL: Yes, there was. There was one or two times when I didn't have any answers left. But it worked out. Again, we had very professional people. And we just wouldn't give up. We just drilled it meter by meter.

MCEDWARDS: Were you ever --

HALL: I apologize. I haven't had much sleep. I'm a little bit weepy sometimes. I apologize.

MCEDWARDS: I understand. I can see that it emotional and it is completely, completely understandable. I'm wondering too what your thoughts are about the other members who are down there still and whether -- with the business that you're in, whether you ever really look at this technology the same way, too. This is an amazing moment.

HALL: I don't think I'll ever look at anything the same way.


HALL: Yeah. This is just -- again, I feel so fortunate to be allowed to be a part of this. It is just incredible.

MCEDWARDS: How much work needs to be done in the future on the safety issues around mining?

HALL: I'm glad you asked that. Brandon again -- Brandon Fisher, Center Rock, he and I have talked. We're going to try -- that's one of the reasons we're making these public appearances. We're going to try to get together and try to form what would be called a rapid response team, where we would actually have proper equipment, proper people, proper training, where, God forbid, if this ever happens again, we can get there just that minute sooner.

(END VIDEOTAPE) HOLMES: All right. So who are these 33 men who have so captured the world's attention? We know that the youngest is just 18. The oldest is 63. Well, someone who does know is Fionnuala Sweeney, joining us now with a closer look at the miners. Fionnuala?

FIONNUALA SWEENEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Michael. Yes, indeed. Of course, it seems to be going pretty much like clock work, so to speak -- fingers crossed -- over the last three hours. One miner an hour has been lifted. So we now know there are 30 trapped underneath, three rescued.

And let's have a look at the miners, as we know them, that have been rescued. Now, the first person to be rescued was Florencio Antonio Avalos Silva. He was deemed to be the fittest at the age of 31. He was a cameraman. He became a cameraman during the whole session, the last two months. And he was able to film his fellow miners.

And essentially, he was deemed to be the healthiest. Of course, we watched those scenes coming up just over two hours ago or so. His brother is also, we should say, trapped in there as well.

Now, the second person who was rescued was -- if we just move this along here. And we can see, at the age of 40, from Santiago, in Chile, someone who became pretty much an unofficial spokesman, a narrator for the miners. His wife is an accountant. While waiting at Camp Hope, she continued to fill out tax forms.

The third person that we saw just at the top of the hour was Juan Illanes Palma. And he is 52 years of age. And he is an electrical mechanic. And he also served as a corporal for Chile, fighting in the conflict with Argentina. He is known as a bit of a singer. He is known to be good at letters. And apparently his missives to his wife were full of humor and optimism. Michael?

HOLMES: OK, we've seen one, two, three. Do we know who four is?

SWEENEY: Well, there is a pecking order that has been determined and has been formalized now by the rescuers who have gone down. As we know, at least three rescuers have gone down. So the fourth person we expect to come up is -- let's just move this back here -- very technical -- 23 years of age.

He is the one Bolivian among the 33 miners. His name is Carlos Mamani Solis. He had only been working at the San Jose mine for five days before the collapse. We know that Bolivian President Evo Morales has promised to help him after the rescue. Fingers crossed.

HOLMES: Amazing. Presidents everywhere. All right, Fionnuala, thanks for that. Fionnuala Sweeney with the latest on just who is down there and who is coming to the top.

All right, well, the rescue of the 33 miners trapped underground is obviously a cause for celebration. But not just in Chile, all around the globe.

Ralitsa Vassileva has been monitoring world wide reaction. She joins us now. Ralitsa, what's going on outside of Chile?

RALITSA VASSILEVA, CNN ANCHOR: Well, Michael, people around the world are watching the rescue, hoping everything works out as planned. The White House issued this statement from President Barack Obama, which reads in part, quote, "while the rescue is far from over and difficult work remains, we pray that by God's grace, the miners will be able to emerge safely and return to their families soon. We are also proud of all the Americans who have been working with our Chilean friends on the ground to do everything that we can to bring those miners home," end of quote. This from Barack Obama, the U.S. president.

Elsewhere in Washington, many are holding viewing parties. Take a look at this one. The joy is palpable as everybody cheers the moment the first miner makes it out chanting, "long live Chile," popping champagne to mark this moment of pride. This is the scene at the viewing party hosted by this man, Chile's ambassador in Washington, D.C. They were watching the rescue on a big screen TV. Some of the guests are wearing national costumes displaying the Chilean flag. A moment of national pride.

Across the globe, every moment of this rescue is being broadcast live. Here I want to show you Japan TV Asaki's broadcasting the images. When the rescue capsule was first lowered into the chambers, this is what Japanese viewers saw.

And in Chile itself, people are on tenterhooks. Monica Santander is in Santiago watching the rescue with her family. She says people in Santiago have been talking about this all day long, rushing home to watch, hoping everything will work as planned. I talked to her a short time ago.


MONICA SANTANDER, SANTIAGO RESIDENT: I think my friends and my family are glued -- we are glued to TV. We are like me, sitting on the border of the chair waiting for the moment. And I have friends and my family that are also, I know, sitting in front of the TV, because it is a very important moment. A human person -- for these that are Christians or any other religion, it is very important.

We are very proud Chilean people, person. It's very important for us.


VASSILEVA: Monica said that her family will be up all night watching the rescue. They just can't sleep. She's not alone. I heard people in Atlanta talking, watching the rescue all night. They were hoping the miners would get out safely. They were concerned about the risks. And they were in awe of how the miners have handled this ordeal. Michael?

HOLMES: Ralitsa, we'll be up all night watching too.

VASSILEVA: Absolutely.

HOLMES: We're not going anywhere. We're going to continue our coverage, aren't we?

MCEDWARDS: We are indeed. Three miners safely to the surface. But miles to go before they sleep here. That pod on its way back down again for number four. Our coverage continues in just a moment.


HOLMES: Live pictures there deep, deep underground, where thy are awaiting the arrival of the capsule so another miner can inside and get back up to the top and see their loved ones.

This has just been extraordinary. It caught us all by surprise when, all of a sudden, the Chilean government coverage of this -- these are government pictures, controlled by the Chilean government -- suddenly cut to the miners underground. Nobody really expected that. We saw the capsule, the Phoenix Two poke through the hole there in the middle top area of your screen.

Absolutely an extraordinary site. We didn't know it was going to happen. Nobody did. It just popped up. So we've got both ends of this covered, if you like.

I want to bring you up to speed generally on what has been happening. WE the -- that was the third miner's wife as she awaited her husband. There's the president now, as he has been there throughout the last day or so waiting for these rescues to come about.

The first one was just before 11:00 p.m. Eastern.

MCEDWARDS: Yes, right around 11:00.

HOLMES: Midnight local. And it has been running like clock work pretty much ever since. The Phoenix Two -- there are three of these capsules. Phoenix Two was the least subject to wear and tear. It was the least used in practices. So that's the one that's being used at the moment. They do have two in reserve if required. They hope not. And we see another one of those reunions. We're waiting for number four now.

MCEDWARDS: And it is amazing as you watch it, Michael, I mean, they almost make it look easy, don't they?

HOLMES: They do. Yeah, yeah. It's been extraordinary the organization of this. And it is not -- of course, this hasn't happened by accident. There has been a number of countries involved. NASA involved in the United States and mining experts from Australia to Canada to England who have been involved and given their expertise on this.

MCEDWARDS: Exactly, making it look easy. It has not been easy by any stretch. I want to bring in now Dave Feickert. He is a mine safety adviser in New Zealand, in China as well, parts of Europe. He's been watching this operation in Chile and can talk to us more just about what he's seeing and how unprecedented this is. Also some of the safety issues around this industry, which, of course, is very much in the spotlight right now. He join us from New Zealand. Dave, just tell me what you're feeling as you're watching all of this. I think we've lost him.

DAVE FEICKERT, MINE SAFETY ADVISER: I feel like just everybody else that's watching it. It is absolutely an amazing story. Three of the trapped miners have come out already. We can be fairly confident that the rest will also be freed. The rescuers -- the two rescuers down there will also come out. It is going to take quite a while. There may be some hitches, but we'll just to have wait and see. But it's fantastic.

MCEDWARDS: Dave, how difficult was this whole drilling and rescue operation? You know a lot about the technology, a lot about the process. Give us the highlights, because this was pretty dicey stuff.

FEICKERT: Yes, I think it was -- well, it's unprecedented. It has never been done before. It is all uncharted territory. They had to go through a learning curve, everybody who was involved in it, especially the men under the ground. They have helped to rescue themselves.

But the drilling teams, I was just listening to an interview with the Plan B team. And they say it was also about as physical as it gets. So when you look at the whole rescue efforts, from underground, from the men themselves and on the surface, with the world mining industry coming in and offering help and advice, it is just incredible. It makes me feel exhausted just thinking about what's been done.

MCEDWARDS: Yes. Are there lessons learned from this, Dave? Are there going to be thing in mining around the world that change because of this?

FEICKERT: There will be -- I would predict that there will be two or three very important changes. Until the whole experience has been analyzed, we won't know exactly which the most important things are. But there is obviously the fact that the men have survived for 69 days. That's unprecedented. Three weeks was a maximum at this point in China.

There is the drilling. There is the shaft. The only precedent for that was the K Creek rescue of nine coal miners in America in 2002. But they were only 70 meters underground. So that's another first. They have blazed a trail, this group of rescuers and this group of miners.

But I think the point needs to be made that the mine they were working on was not safe. And we've got to deal with this whole question of mine safety in a preventive way, so that it doesn't happen again. This is a horrific experience for everybody concerned. It's hard to imagine what they felt in the first 17 days. It is just -- they don't want to talk about it. I don't blame them for that. But that 17 days would have been terror for even experienced miners.

MCEDWARDS: Yes, absolutely. Thinking they were down there and no one was going to find them. No one could possibly get them out. This mine, I understand, has been in use off and on for more than 100 years. And some experts who have been watching this say that this mine was badly over-mined. Why is that a problem?

FEICKERT: Well, that's a problem because you're much more likely to have roof collapses in a mine that has been excessively worked. We don't know exactly what caused the roof collapse in the tunnel area. But, you know, the most amazing thing, this mine didn't have a second means of egress. Every underground mine should have two ways of getting in and out. And there was a ventilation shaft, I understand, that had a ladder only part way up it. The miners tried to go up there but then discovered the ladder hadn't been completed.

So this -- it is obvious that the company, if that was the case, knew that there should have been another exit. But there wasn't.

MCEDWARDS: All right, Dave Feickert, we're going to leave it there. Dave is a mine safety adviser joining us on the phone now from New Zealand. Dave, thank you so much.

HOLMES: OK, we got this story covered from both ends of that shaft that's been drilled, and from all over the place. We've got crews covering it from all angles, including from the town of Copiapo, which is not that far from the San Jose Mine.

THey're all eagerly waiting for every bit of good news. There's been a festive mood on the streets. Although it is now -- what is it? It's 2:45 a.m. local time. You see there, this just happened, I guess. The capsule has arrived to pick up number four.

MCEDWARDS: REady for number four. Just touching down in that well- lit space where the remaining miners wait to get on there.

HOLMES: OK. Now Patrick Oppmann is at Copiapo. He has been watching the celebration, the jubilation as the miners have reached the surface. Three and counting, number four it looks like is about to get in the capsule for his trip to the top. Talk us through your night, Patrick. I imagine it has been a bit of a party atmosphere.

OPPMANN: Yes, and a fine morning to you from Copiapo, Chile, the home town of many of these miners. Also the home of many other miners. Behind me there holding the flag is a gentleman named Roberto Garrido (ph). He is a miner himself. And this gentleman right here, he is a miner himself. And he is going to stay out here as long as he can, as are the good dozen, two dozen people behind me. These are sort of the diehards, Michael. They're not going home.

They're going to stay out. They've got a show on. They're going to keep watching as these miners are pulled out one at a time. The excitement is still here, even in the wee hours of the morning. And starting the next several hours, a lot of these miners will be brought to a nearby hospital. This is where they'll be treated. Probably spend two to three days in that hospital.

And as you can imagine, these miners have gone through such an ordeal, such unique circumstances. No one is really quite sure how well they're doing, the health problems they could encounter, they have encountered, truly at risk of post-traumatic stress. So they're going to take a very close look at them over the next few days. And if the rescue wasn't dramatic enough, they'll be flown by military helicopters over the desert, into the town of Copiapo. And should be landing probably in the next several hours.

So the excitement continues. The rescue continues. And for many people in Copiapo, it is too exciting and they will not go to bed tonight.

HOLMES: I'll bet. Patrick, give us a snapshot, if you like, a post card of Copiapo. What is this town like? Big, small? What is it like?

OPPMANN: No. Its a big tourist attraction, probably not surprisingly, Michael, is a mining museum. We're in a plaza right now. This plaza was built in the 1700s. It's one of the oldest plazas or town squares in Chile. So it has that classic Spanish feel to it.

But, you know, this is a miner's town. It's -- most of the people here work in mining or tourism. A lot of people come here because of the coast and the beautiful desert.

But other than that, really, if you live in this area, you're going to work in this area, you're going to work in the backbone industry of Chile. You're going to work in the mines. And as you know, that can be very dangerous business. You're not particularly well paid. Maybe well paid by Chilean standards.

But I was talking to one gentleman here, and I said what do you think about President Pinera saying that the mine will be closed? That's very controversial. People like the -- say that the mine needs to remain open for jobs. And he said no, the mine should be closed. I work there. I know how dangerous that mine was. They should have closed it years ago.

So some interesting feedback from the president's comments today, saying that mine will remain closed unless they can clean up their act.

HOLMES: Patrick, 2:48 a.m. where you are. How many people are still there in the square?

OPPMANN: It's thinned out considerably, Michael. But they're the die hards. They're miners. They're people who know the miners. They're people who just do not want to go to sleep. Probably got a good 50 people. Earlier I would say -- you never like to guess crowds, but I couldn't see the sides of the plaza. I think a lot of people realize that this is going to be going on in the morning, that the miners will be arriving in their fair city. These men who left this town as miners going to work, clocking in, are going to return as heroes, people -- 33 men who will never be forgotten in this town.

Certainly the biggest thing that has ever happen in this town. But it is so much bigger than this town. All of Chile is watching as this unfolds. And as you know, it has gone beyond the borders -- beyond the borders of this continent even. It has really become a worldwide phenomenon, as we saw that capsule reaching that mine today. I think we all kind of felt like people watching the moon walk. Something unbelievable, unexpected, perhaps unexplainable was taking place. That's how people here feel as well, Michael.

HOLMES: OK, Patrick. Thanks for keeping an eye on that. Patrick Oppmann there in Copiapo. He's going to be up all night following this for us. Isn't he?

MCEDWARDS: He certainly is. And we're looking at live pictures right there. Maybe we can go back to those, because what we're seeing right there is the capsule once again, with Carlos Mamani Solis, miner number four, who appears to be inside now, getting toward make his trip to the surface. He will be miner number four to reach the surface. Carlos Mamani Solis 23 years old.

He is actually from Bolivia. An incredible note to his story, he'd only been working in the mine about five days before this terrible accident happened. So he is loaded up and ready to go.

HOLMES: Surprise, surprise. He got a message to his father-in-law, who said that he has decided he'll never work in a mine again.

MCEDWARDS: You think?

HOLMES: You think? The Bolivian president, of course, has gone to Chile, too, to greet him top side.

MCEDWARDS: And is offering him help and support at the end of this.

HOLMES: And he is inside there.

MCEDWARDS: Absolutely. We've been talking about the capsule quite a bit, actually. It is very tiny. The miners had to follow a strict regimen of diet and exercise to make sure that they were the right size and weight to be put in this thing, right? It's only as big as -- you stepped in a replica that we have.

HOLMES: We do have a replica. That's right. Our set designers actually made up a replica. You're going to see it in a minute. Yes, but I got in it and I could not fit. I was too tall and too wide.

MCEDWARDS: Yes, yes.

HOLMES: Anyway, Jon Mann had a look at this replica. And he is going to talk you through what it is like. Here it is. Let's roll that.


JONATHAN MANN, CNN ANCHOR: As we've been telling you, there are three Phoenix Capsules on the ground in Copiapo, Chile. But we thought we would build one of our own to give you a sense of how tight a fit it is going to be.

This, of course, is made out of wood. It is much flimsier than the I think it's 13-foot long capsules that are built out of metal, with the help of NASA designers. If you get in, you get a sense of just how tight this is. It is about as comfortable as a coffin. Close the doors and you feel like you're in some kind of really bad telephone booth. The difference is though, I can see out to the light of day. It is not claustrophobic. But a man moving through 620 meters of rock is going to see just basically rock and danger and darkness in every direction.

The men are going to have audio contact with the surface. They're going to have video contact with the surface. They're going to have oxygen.

But some experts said at the outset it might be a good idea to sedate the men because they considered the journey so nerve racking. That was a bad idea, apparently, according to experts, because they need the men to be aware. They need the men to be able to escape through an escape hatch if there is a problem along the way.

But there were some other concerns as well, unrelated to any danger outside the capsule. That is the capsule itself. It is so small that really once you're in here, your shoulders are essentially locked. There is not a lot of movement possible.

But the key problem, in many respects, is not the shoulders. It is the legs. Even a soldier standing on a parade ground long enough with legs locked can pass out because of lack of circulation in the lower half of the body. Now if you're on a parade ground and you fall over, what happens? Your legs stretch out, the circulation is naturally restored.

If you're in a capsule so small that there is no falling over, the concern was that the men would pass out and stay standing up because there was nowhere for their legs to go. In that situation, the capsule itself could prove deadly to the men.

So leg room was a crucial issue. There is enough of it apparently in here. One presumes there is enough of it in the Phoenix Capsules. But that just gives you a sense of what these men are going through, the kinds of risks that the journey represents, that the capsule represents on what will be quite literally the ride of their lives.


MCEDWARDS: Thanks to Jon Mann for that. It certainly has been the ride of their lives. You know, when that first capsule came up, just a little under three hours ago, it was quite a moment. That was the big test. That was the moment everybody was waiting for, to see if one person could make it up to the surface. And that capsule, what would it behave like with that winch pulling it, with the full weight of a man in it? All of those questions were on people's minds.

And as we saw Florencio Avalos get to the surface as the first miner to reach the surface, it was quite a moment indeed. The Chilean president, Sebastian Pinera, has been there at the scene. He has been one of the people greeting the miners as they reach the surface. We want to just let you hear what he had to say after that first miner came aboveground. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEBASTIAN PINERO, CHILEAN PRESIDENT: I'm so motivated. I'm looking forward for that moment. I have dreamed with that moment so many time. To see them coming out from the bowels of the mountain and see again the light of sun and rejoin with their families, their wives, their sons, their daughters -- I think that this that started as a possible tragedy will end as a real blessing, because they have given us a real inspiration of unity, courage, faith, hope. And I think that they have really give us an example. Not only for the Chileans, for the whole world.


MCEDWARDS: OK, Chilean President Sebastian Pinera there. I just want to make a correction. We were intending to run a sound bite from him just after the first miner came to the surface. That was not it. That was a comment from the Chilean president some week before this rescue took place. We apologize for the error there.

HOLMES: We do have that sound bite. We're going to get it for you later. He actually said that the rescue had been a miracle and thanked all the technical experts who made a possible, said it was a night of emotion, and said "when Chile is united, we're capable of doing great things." We're going to get that sound bite for you in the minutes ahead.

Meanwhile, we're done for the moment.

MCEDWARDS: We are indeed. I'm Colleen McEdwards.

HOLMES: I'm Michael Holmes. But Rosemary Church and Jonathan Mann are going to be along after, in about five minutes from now.

MCEDWARDS: Stay with CNN. Our continuing coverage of this incredible, unprecedented rescue in Chile continues here on CNN.