Latin America & Caribbean

Chilean miners receive first hot meal in three weeks

The person in charge of the new food rations to be delivered to the miners shows a sample of their meal, Chile, 1 September 2010
Image caption The meals were packaged and sent down in a tube

Chilean miners trapped underground after a rock collapse have received their first hot meal in 26 days.

Meatballs, chicken and rice were piped through a tube to the 33 miners, who are stuck 700m (2,300ft) below the surface.

Previously the miners have received only glucose tablets and high-protein milk.

A team from the US space agency Nasa has arrived at the mine to offer their advice on keeping the miners healthy.

The team of four experts was requested by the Chilean government to share their experience of coping in confined spaces.

A nutritionist from the team helped put together the menu.

'No alcohol'

Engineers have drilled through 20m of rock so far at the San Jose gold and copper mine, near Copiapo, after beginning their work on Monday. The rescue attempt is expected to take three to four months.

Drilling was paused to shore up the shaft's wall with cement on Wednesday after a minor geological fault was detected in the rock, the rescue operation's chief engineer Andres Sougarret said.

The Nasa team, who will be there until Friday, praised the work of rescue workers to keep miners healthy.

"We've been very impressed with the organisation of the team and the quality of the medical care that's been provided," Nasa's team leader, Dr Michael Duncan, said at a news conference on Wednesday.

"And we've been very impressed also with the courage and the organisation that the miners have provided themselves in this very difficult circumstance," he added.

He recommended that the miners did not consume alcohol or smoke cigarettes.

Dr Duncan has said that the focus should be on the miners' calorie intake, sleep schedule and their levels of optimism.

Nutritionist Amelia Ponce said she would try to evaluate the miners' weights and estimate how many kilos they had lost.

"We don't have any way of weighing them, so what we can do is have them give an average weight that they estimate," she said.

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Media captionRescue coordinator Miguel Fortt says miners could be free by November

'Night and day'

Chilean officials have said that they are working out a programme to simulate night and day in the mine to ensure the mental well-being of the men.

"The most important thing we're doing right now from the psychological point of view is to simulate conditions of day, night, and separating the space where they're living into zones," Health Minister Jaime Manalich told press.

A video released on Wednesday showed the miners to be in better spirits than earlier images, wearing clean red T-shirts. Some of them had shaved off the beards they had grown.

Officials have said that rescue attempts will also involve a "Plan B", in which a team will drill a separate shaft from a different part of the mountainside.

Dr Duncan has told Chilean officials to be frank with the miners about how long their rescue will take.

The miners have been told it could take a long time to get them out of the mine, but have not been given dates.

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