Rescue of the Chilean miners will begin in the next 24 hours as the trapped men express fears that the mine’s roof could collapse.

After a two-month ordeal trapped 2,000 feet under the earth, the 33 miners will be brought up by rescue crews tonight, said Chilean authorities. However the men are afraid that attempts to rescue them will cause the mine’s roof to collapse, describing how they have heard falling rocks and “loud cracking noises”.

The rescue capsule

Rescuers have reinforced an escape shaft and a 13-foot-tall rescue chamber sliding, as planned, nearly all the way to the men.

The miners will come up one by one in the metal capsule – dubbed the Phoenix – which is only 22 inches wide. The steel cage will twist itself out of the earth from the half-a-mile underground chamber where the miners are trapped.

The fittest will make the claustrophobic journey first in case the capsule breaks down and they need to lower themselves back down again.

The rescue capsule has been through four flawless test runs and mining minster Laurence Golborne is confident in its safety. “It didn’t even raise any dust,” he said.

Could the mine collapse?

Despite rescue being imminent, the miners are fearful that the process of bringing them to the surface could cause the mine to collapse.

In a letter to his father, Ariel Ticona, 29, wrote: “I hope the rescue won’t take much longer because last night the mountain started to move, making very loud cracking noises.

“We have heard falling rocks and we don’t know if they are above or below us, but it’s not a good sign.”

Psychological stress

After surviving for two months trapped in their small underground chamber, the ordeal is far from over for Chile’s miners. Journeying to the surface in a small metal capsule will be a test in itself.

“That’s going to be a hairy ride. It may end up being the most traumatic part of the entire experience,” said Robert Hogan, a psychologist who has worked with the U.S. Navy.

When they are finally pulled out, the miners will spend two days under observation in hospital and will be given continued counselling for at least six months.

Experts say that some of the miners are likely to develop the classic symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder in the months to come.

“Some will have nightmares, recurring flashbacks, night sweats, free-floating anxiety and so forth,” said Hogan.