Out of the darkness, images of hope from Chile's trapped miners

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The Independent US

Out of the pitch-black darkness they walk towards the camera, barechested, smiling and in remarkably good spirits for men who have spent three weeks half a mile underground.

One by one they read out messages to their loved ones, breaking into rousing renditions of their national anthem followed by chants of "Chile! Chile! Chile!"

New video images of the 33 men trapped at the San José mine in the Atacama desert was broadcast around the world yesterday, shining a new light on how the men are faring.

In four days' time the miners will have spent longer trapped underground than anyone in living memory, and they still face up to four months before being rescued. But the messages they sent to their relatives yesterday spent little time dwelling on what lay ahead.

Using a camera sent down through an 8cm-wide borehole, one miner took viewers on a tour of the emergency shelter and tunnel where the group is holed up – an area that is big enough to accommodate a forklift truck that briefly comes into shot. "We have organised everything very well down here," he narrates. "Here is where we meet every day, here is where we plan, where we pray. Here is the meeting-room where all of the decisions are made with the involvement of the 33 that are here."

The men have partitioned the shelter into areas for eating, sleeping and even playing dominoes on a makeshift table. Food has been stockpiled on cabinets along with medical supplies and rubbing alcohol to ward off infections.

"It takes courage to not leave us abandoned," said one miner to the camera who – like most of his colleagues – was heavily bearded. "We know everything you've been doing outside."

An older miner standing in front of a first-aid box added: "I'd like to say hello to my grandchildren and all my family. Stay together."

As the camera temporarily focused on a solitary poster of a topless woman, there were also candid moments of black humour among the miners. "Oh, you're sleeping on a box-spring bed," joked one man to another, who was sprawled out on a pile of rocks.

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