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Rescue of Chilean miners hits snag

SAN JOSE MINE, Chile — The rescue of 33 workers trapped in a mine in northern Chile for nearly a month might take longer than expected after work on the rescue shaft hit problems Wednesday.

After a special drill from Australia had dug 65 feet of the shaft since work started Tuesday, engineers found a fault in the wall. The engineer in charge of the rescue tasks at the copper and gold mine, Andre Sougarret, said such problems were anticipated and expected the problem to be overcome.

"We are going to do what we have described, and will use cement to cover the walls and resume digging," Sougarret said.

On a more positive note, Chilean authorities said workers' health has been stabilized enough to get more food.

The miners lost large amounts of weight during their first 16 days underground, before rescuers found they were still alive. Contact was re-established Aug. 21 through small drill holes that allow transport of food, water and equipment.

"(The situation) allows us to go to the next phase of food stabilization this week, with a daily diet of 2,000-2,500 calories," said the Chilean Interior Ministry's National Emergency Office.

The workers stayed alive after the Aug. 5 accident by rationing small bites of tuna and gulps of milk every 48 hours. Since Aug. 21, intake went to 1,500, then 2,000 calories.

A warm meal — rice with minced meat or chicken, according to Chilean daily El Mercurio — was to have been sent down to the miners for the first time on Wednesday — a welcome change from the sandwiches, yogurt, water and special nutrition to date.

Miners can also now sleep on inflatable beds delivered in recent days.

Rescue of Chilean miners hits snag 09/01/10 [Last modified: Thursday, September 2, 2010 12:36am]
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