Heroes' welcome for first rescued Chilean miners
- 15 October 2010
- From the section Latin America & Caribbean
The first of the 33 Chilean miners rescued after spending 69 days trapped underground have arrived home.
Three miners were given an enthusiastic welcome by neighbours and friends following their release from hospital late on Thursday.
Doctors said all the miners had responded well to treatment and many more of them would go home on Friday.
Earlier President Sebastian Pinera visited them and promised to stamp out "inhuman" working conditions in Chile.
Dr Jorge Montes, deputy medical director at the Copiapo hospital which has been treating the men, said the three who left would be allowed to carry out physical activity and would need sunglasses only if they were exposed to intense light.
However, he warned that "the psychological condition of the patients is something we cannot predict".
One of the three, Edison Pena - covered in confetti and thronged by neighbours - described his homecoming as "very beautiful". "I thought I would never return," he said.
Another Juan Illanes, 52, told cheering friends and neighbours: "This is really incredible. It hasn't sunk in."
Still wearing the dark sunglasses he and his fellow miners were given to protect their eyesight, he said being trapped for weeks had taken him "to the limit".
The third, Bolivian Carlos Mamani, was the only foreigner among the 33.
Speaking outside his home, the 24-year-old thanked "all the Chilean people who behaved so well in our rescue. Long live Chile! Long live Bolivia!"
Some of the men have been given dental surgery and two have the lung disease, silicosis: Mario Sepulveda, the second miner to have been rescued, and Mario Gomez, 63, who is on a course of antibiotics for pneumonia.
The men were hauled to the surface one at a time in a complicated and dramatic operation that began late on Tuesday and took about 22 hours from the time the first miner was brought up.
They were winched up a narrow shaft in a metal capsule from where they had been trapped 625m (2,050 feet) below ground since the San Jose mine partially collapsed on 5 August.
The 33 miners have set a world record for surviving the longest time trapped underground.
President Pinera met them in the hospital and promised a review that would lead to a "very radical change" affecting the health and safety of workers in mining as well as the transport, fishing and construction industries.
He told the miners there will be a big celebration for them on 25 October, in the capital, Santiago, and invited them for a game of football the same day against rescuers.
The miners survived the first 17 days of their ordeal by eking out rations that were meant to last just a few days before rescuers found them via a probe lowered down a bore hole about the width of a grapefruit.
Food and other supplies were lowered to the men while they waited for a larger shaft to be drilled for their rescue.
The Chilean government has promised to care for them for at least six months.
The men, whose ordeal has drawn international attention, have received offers from around the world.
European football clubs Manchester United and Real Madrid have invited the 33 to watch them play and they have also received offers of holidays and TV appearances.
They are also expected to receive offers of jobs, advertising deals and book and movie contracts to tell their extraordinary stories.