Latin America & Caribbean

Chile mine rescue 'set to begin in mid-October'

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionThe BBC's Tim Willcox reports on preparations at the mine ahead of the rescue operation

Chile's mines minister says an attempt to rescue 33 trapped miners will begin in the second half of October - earlier than previously predicted.

Laurence Golborne said the drilling of a rescue shaft to bring the men to the surface was going extremely well and would be completed by 15 October.

It will then take several days before rescue capsules can be lowered to the miners, 700m (2,300ft) below ground.

The government had previously said the rescue might happen in early November.

But on Wednesday, one of the drills cut through 50m (164ft) of rock in only 24 hours, raising the hopes of the miners' relatives and rescuers.

The fastest of the three drills has only about 250m further to go, says the BBC's Gideon Long who is at the San Jose mine.

Long ordeal

The men were trapped by a rock fall at the mine near Copiapo, about 725km (450 miles) north of Santiago, on 5 August.

When the rescue shaft is completed, it will be lined with metal tubes to keep the sides in place and allow a smoother journey for the 54cm (21in) wide steel rescue capsule.

One of the three capsules, designed by Chilean navy engineers, is already standing by on the surface.

A field hospital to give the men medical attention as and when they get out is also 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 be at the mine to report on the rescue.

Our correspondent says that despite Friday's welcome announcement, this will have been a long ordeal for the miners.

It is their 57th consecutive day below ground - never before has anyone spent so long trapped in a mine.