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After 17 days of searching and a week of relishing good news, rescue efforts set to begin in earnest.
The plight of the 33 miners trapped nearly 2,300 feet below the collapsed copper mine has stirred Chileans. The national show of solidarity with the trapped miners has converted the miners into a badge of patriotism for this small South American nation of 17 million people.
In September, Chile celebrates its bicentennial, and the miners, who earlier this week were seen in an extraordinary video chanting the country’s national anthem from their shelter deep inside the earth, have become an inspirational symbol.
A country that is predominantly Roman Catholic, at the San Jose mine figures of Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary are prominent. As such, family members were visibly moved by a message from the Pope at his Sunday's morning services. An onslaught of media from around the world has also made clear that the world is watching.
One leading Chilean businessman, Leonardo Farkas, has already donated $10,000 to each of the familes of the trapped miners, and is campaigning to get others to match his donation with the ultimate goal that each miner receive $1 million.
One of Chile’s leading folk music groups, Inti Illimani, played a surprise concert on Saturday for mining families installed at “Camp Hope,” the name given to the impromptu campground at the San Jose mine.
Chile’s mining minister said that the miners would soon receive a host of items to improve their living situation below, including a new set of clothing, special shoes to protect them from infections, flashlights, MP3 music players and a video projector and DVDs featuring movies and recorded soccer matches.
Providing entertainment to relieve boredom for the miners is one part of a plan to deal with the mental health of the miners. While they so far generally appear to be in good spirits, there are reports that at least five of the miners are suffering from depression.
Some 300 specialists, including a team of experts from the space agency NASA, are working on a plan to keep the miners in stable physical and mental condition so that they will be in proper shape for the final phase of extracting the miners. Chile Health Minister Rene Manalich calls the effort a “unique experience in human history.”
Altogether, Chile may have to spend as much as $10 million on the rescue operation. The drilling of the main rescue hole that begins on Monday will cost between $3 to $5 million, said officials.