The 33 Chilean miners who have been trapped underground for more than two months could be freed within days. Rescue crews have finally broken through to them and now workers are putting the finishing touches on an escape shaft.
Over the weekend, rescuers were able to drill a shaft wide enough to free the trapped miners. The first man is expected to be lifted out by Wednesday.
The breakthrough was welcome news for anxious family and friends.
"The Lord made a miracle and they are alive," said a mother of one of the miners.
Engineers are installing a winch which includes a 21-inch-wide tube to lift the miners out of the ground. But it will not be an easy task.
"They are going to have quite a ride," said U.S. driller Brandon Fischer. "It's not going to be coming up something straight like a soda straw up to the top."
One by one, the miners will enter a narrow cage for their ascent to the surface -- a twisting journey that could take up to 30 minutes for each man.
"The whole process should take something in the range of 48 hours," said Laurence Golborne, the Chilean mining minister. "I mean two days from the first rescue to the last rescue."
The miners will be put on a special diet and wear compression socks to guard against health problems that could arise during the half mile trip to the surface.
Officials said the men have argued about which one will come up last.
"We began to talk to them about the proper order of rescue," said Jamie Manalich, Chile's Minister of Health. "Everyone of them wanted to be at the end of the line, not at the beginning."
A special forces paramedic from the Chilean navy will be lowered into the mine to determine the final order.
Health officials said the men will spend at least two days in a hospital for medical and psychological evaluation before they are allowed to go home.
Meanwhile, all eyes will be watching the rescue of the miners. A live satellite feed of the rescue is expected to be seen around the world.