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Trapped miners in Chile now arguing over who gets rescued last

October 10, 2010 |  8:20 pm

Trapped miners chile

Deprived of sunlight and fresh air since a shaft in their mine collapsed Aug 5., Chile's trapped miners are now so confident that their rescue from 2,300 feet underground is just days away that they are arguing over who will be lifted out last.

None of the miners wants to be first to hoisted up to the surface. "They were fighting with us yesterday because everyone wanted to be at the end of the line, not the beginning," Chilean Health Minister Jaime Manalich told reporters Sunday.

The two-month ordeal of "Los 33," as the trapped miners are known, has riveted Chileans and the world at large with its stark drama of human survival. The miners, a remarkably healthy and sometimes testy bunch, have at times argued with the surface crews over their requests for wine and cigarettes.

The Times' special correspondent in South America, Chris Kraul, has a recent update on the rescue effort, a delicate and unprecedented process that will see the 33 men lifted one-by-one in a narrow capsule through an escape hole.

Miners who emerge at night will be wearing sweaters because of the dramatic change in temperature they will experience, from 90 degrees in the mine to near freezing above on the Atacama desert. Those pulled to safety in the daytime will be wearing sunglasses.

The lift operations could begin as early as Wednesday. The L.A. Times photography blog Framework has a stirring gallery of images.

-- Daniel Hernandez in Mexico City

Photo: Trapped miners in Chile speak with rescuers via a video-conference feed. Credit: Government of Chile, via Framework