Latin America & Caribbean

Chile mine rescue makes rapid advance

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionSenior engineer Rene Aguilar tells the BBC's Tim Wilcox how the trapped miners are helping

Thirty-three miners trapped underground in Chile for nearly two months could be out sooner than thought.

Rescuers digging to reach the men say one of their drills has cut through 50m (164ft) of rock in 24 hours.

At that rate they could be ready to bring the men to the surface by the middle of October.

But they have warned that they could yet run into problems, and the government still says it could take until early November to get them out.

One of the three drills digging rescue shafts - the T-130 - has now penetrated more than 300m (984ft) of the 630m (2,066ft) of rock separating the miners from the surface.

"This headway is some of the best we have had and it is due to the better continuity we have had with this drill," Andrew Sougarret, the head of the rescue operation, said.

"We have reached 300m, which is the area where we have had the most unfavourable geological conditions, so hopefully we can think about maintaining this rhythm of drilling."

Relatives of the miners, who have been camped out at the San Jose mine since the men were trapped by a rock fall on 5 August, cheered when the progress was announced.

Detailed preparations

A steel capsule designed to pull the miners up through the narrow rescue shaft when it is completed is standing by on the surface.

A field hospital to give the men medical attention as and when they get out is being set up.

Construction work has even started on a huge platform to accommodate up to 1,000 journalists from around the world who are expected to descend on the mine to report on the rescue.

The interior ministry cabinet chief, Cristian Barra, said all the elements for the rescue operation were being put in place.

"We are preparing to be ready in 15 days to complete the rescue at any time. This does not mean this will happen in 15 days, but all the installations - the hospital, the medical team, the meeting point - everything required will be prepared," Mr Barra said.