|One of the rescued miners in Chile: Reuters|
(Reuters) - Chile's trapped miners were shuttled up a narrow escape shaft to joyous reunions on Wednesday in an extraordinary rescue operation that ended their two-month ordeal underground.
One by one, the miners climbed into a specially designed steel capsule barely wider than a man's shoulders and took a 15-minute journey through 2,050 feet of rock to freedom.
With 20 of the 33 miners freed in a rescue operation that advanced rapidly without hitches, officials hoped to have the remaining men out by the end of the day instead of in 48 hours as originally estimated.
Scenes of jubilation erupted every time a miner arrived to a hero's welcome at the surface of the San Jose gold and copper mine in Chile's northern Atacama desert.
The miners appeared to be in very good shape, but some have been struggling with illness and were more fragile. Medical teams were on hand and the men were quickly whisked away for a medical checkup.
Mario Gomez, at 63 the oldest of the men and a miner for 50 years, suffers from silicosis and was breathing from an oxygen mask as he reached the surface. He was helped out of the capsule, and immediately dropped to his knees to pray.
"I never lost faith that they would find us," he said.
Esteban Rojas also knelt and prayed on arrival. The 44-year-old miner had promised to wed his wife formally in church if he got out alive, the seal their civil marriage.
Euphoric rescuers, relatives and friends broke into cheers -- and tears -- as the miners emerged to breathe fresh air for the first time since the mine caved in on Aug 5.
"This is a miracle from God," said Alberto Avalos, the uncle of Florencio Avalos, a father of two who was the first to emerge shortly after midnight.
(Click here to read the full story on the Reuters website. Praise GOD for HIS Grace and Mercy in rescuing the brave and faithful miners in Chile. GOD Bless them and their families.)