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Trapped miners in fine voice after receiving fresh supplies

Singing the national anthem in a full-throated chorus, 33 miners trapped deep underground thanked their rescuers and settled in for a long wait until a tunnel wide enough to pull them out can be carved through half a mile of solid rock.

Raising hopes further, a second borehole punched into the chamber where the miners are entombed, and a third probe was nearing the spot yesterday. After parcelling out tiny bits of food and drinking water carved from the mine floor with a backhoe for 19 days, the miners were getting glucose and rehydration tablets to restore their digestive systems. Capsules carrying oxygen were also sent down through a six-inch borehole to help the men to survive the hot, stuffy, humid conditions in the lower reaches of the gold and copper mine.

The bore holes will also be used to lower communication lines and to provide ventilation, Chile's Mining minister, Laurence Golborne, said.

Meanwhile, the miners were sending up notes to their families in the same supply capsules yesterday, providing solace to people who have held vigil in the chilly Atacama desert since the collapse.

Their ordeal, however, is far from over. Above ground, doctors and psychological experts are debating how to keep the miners sane during the estimated four months it will take to dig a tunnel large enough to get them out of the safety chamber 2,200 feet (670 metres) underground, where they have been buried since 5 August.

Through a newly installed communication system, the miners told authorities on Monday afternoon that they had used a backhoe to dig for trapped water and ate sparingly from their few supplies.

"They had two little spoonfuls of tuna, a sip of milk and a biscuit every 48 hours," said Dr Sergio Aguilar, a physician on the rescue team.

Dr Aguilar did not say how long those meagre supplies lasted after the landslide that caused a tunnel to collapse inside the San Jose gold and copper mine about 530 miles north of Chile's capital, Santiago.

Officials released a portion of the recording of the dialogue, in which miners are heard singing Chile's national anthem.