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Trapped miners sing national anthem

  |   Aug. 24, 2010 at 9:12 AM
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SANTIAGO, Chile, Aug. 24 (UPI) -- The 33 miners trapped in a Chilean mine cheered, applauded and sang the country's anthem in their first verbal contact with the outside world, officials said.

Several of Chile's key officials surrounded a telephone at the mine's mouth Monday as the workers' voices were heard through speakers and broadcast on television, CNN reported.

The miners, trapped since Aug. 5 in the San Esteban mine in the Atacama region in northern Chile, also cheered when they learned their families were keeping vigil outside of the mine.

"Yesterday all of Chile celebrated in all the plazas of the country that we had made contact with you. Today they are going to be even happier that we have spoken," Mining Minister Laurence Golborne said to the trapped crew.

Because of the dangerous conditions, officials said it could take months to rescue the copper and gold miners, trapped 2,300 feet underground in an area that is about 538 square feet. The area provides the miners access to an underground workshop where they found batteries and water. Temperatures are in the 90s.

The miners survived by sharing tuna and mackerel found in a shelter, along with water, President Sebastian Pinera said.

"They had very little food," he said. "They told us they ate tuna and mackerel every other day, and that they shared ... a jar of peaches among the 33."

Rescuers lowered two devices into the shaft that are capable of relaying communications, food and water between the trapped miners and those above ground.

Pinera said he saw the miners in images relayed by a video camera on one of the probes.

"I saw them jumping like children, with an infinite joy. They moved their arms, they turned on their flashlights," Pinera said.

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