Six Chilean miners have now been rescued in an operation that is so far running ahead of schedule and without hitch.

Families and friends cheered as the miners were raised to the surface after 69 days trapped in the collapsed mine in Chile’s Atacama Desert. The men are being brought up one by one in a metal capsule, named the Phoenix 2, twisting 2,041ft out of the earth.

Osmán Araya, 30, threw his arms around his wife Angelica and thanked mining rescue crews before being taken for medical examinations.

The fifth miner to be rescued was the youngest, 19-year-old Jimmy Sanchez, who was so shy he preferred to do the filming while underground so that his face wouldn’t be seen. After embracing the other miners, Sanchez was carried away on a stretcher.

Before his rescue, Sanchez had written to his family: “God wanted me to stay here, I do not know why. Maybe for me to change. And I thought and I’ll change a lot. I have suffered much and do not want to suffer more. In the toughest times I thanked God that I had a daughter.”

The first miner up was 31-year-old Florencio Avalos who hugged his wife, son then Chilean president Sebastian Pinera.

Second to be rescued was Mario Sepulveda, 40, who became known as the ‘presenter’ of the group for his chatty nature. Sepulveda brought with him a bag of rocks from the collapsed mine which he handed around as souvenirs. Speaking to a Chilean TV station, the miner said: “They gave us back our lives, it’s incredible that they recovered us. I was with God, and I was with the devil, but God won.”

The rescue operation is so far going so smoothly that the third miner, Juan Illanes, was rescued ahead of schedule and emerged saying that the journey to the surface was “like a cruise.”

24-year-old Carlos Mamani came fourth and hugged his wife so hard he knocked off her hat.

The first men to be rescued have been amoung the strongest in case there were problems. Next out will be the miners who are suffering health problems. This includes about 10 men suffering from hypertension, diabetes, dental and respiratory infections and skin lesions from the mine’s oppressive humidity.

The last miners to be rescued will be physically and mentally strong characters. The very last is to be shift foreman Luis Urzua, whose leadership has been credited with helping the men to endure their ordeal.

After being reunited with their families, the miners will board a 10-minute flight on a military helicopter to the Chilean town of Copiapo, where they will be kept in hospital for 48 hours of observation.

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