Latin America & Caribbean

Nasa team advise Chile miners to start exercise regime

A team of Nasa experts advising trapped Chile miners
Image caption The Nasa team also offered to help design a rescue capsule

Scientists from the US space agency Nasa have advised the trapped Chilean miners to regulate their day and night sleep patterns.

A team of four visiting experts said the men should boost their Vitamin D intake and phase in an exercise program as their nutrition improves.

The 33 miners have been stuck in a tunnel 2,300ft (700m) below the ground for nearly a month after a rock fall.

They must now wait two to four months for engineers to drill an escape shaft.

Chile's government invited the Nasa team to the San Jose gold and copper mine to offer tips for helping the men keep physically and mentally healthy while they wait to be rescued.

Exercise regime

"One of the things that's being recommended is that there be one place, a community area, which is always lighted," said Al Holland, a Nasa psychologist, speaking at a press conference outside the mine.

"And then you have a second area which is always dark for sleep, and then you have a third area which is work, doing the mining, and the shifts can migrate through these geographic locations within the mine and, in that way, regulate the daylight cycle of the shift."

Image caption Nasa said the miners should boost their Vitamin D intake

The miners lost an estimated 22lbs (10kg) each during the 17 days before they were found alive. Since then, they have been receiving food, water and medicine through three bore-holes.

On Thursday, the men received their first hot meal - meatballs, chicken and rice. Previously they had received only glucose tablets and high-protein milk.

Michael Duncan, the Nasa team leader, said that authorities should add an exercise regime to the miners' schedules.

"Before our astronauts go into space, we put them on exercise programs and the miners, even though they're doing some work down there, we will want to phase in some exercise programs as their nutrition improves," he added.

'Plan C'

The operation to drill a rescue shaft at the mine, near Copiapo, has penetrated more than 40m (130ft) deep since it began on Monday.

Image caption The Strata 950 drill is the first of three which could possibly rescue the trapped workers

Meanwhile, two alternative rescue plans are in progress, according to Andres Sougarret, the engineer in charge of the rescue.

A second, faster drill that could aid the men's rescue arrived at the site on Friday and could begin work on Sunday, said Mr Sougarret.

The T-130 excavator will be deployed initially to enlarge the supply chute to allow larger objects to be sent down to the 33 men.

"What's more, we've got a third plan, called plan C, consisting of an oil drilling machine that will require a platform the size of a football pitch," said Mr Sougarret.

"It will be working before 18 September (Chile's Independence Day)."

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