COPIAPO, Chile — Engineers reinforced a lifeline Monday to 33 miners entombed deep inside a Chilean gold and copper mine, preparing to keep them supplied with food, water, medicine and communications during the four months it may take to carve a tunnel wide enough to pull them out.
A team of doctors and psychiatric experts also arrived Monday at the remote mine, implementing a plan to maintain the miners' sanity as well.
"We need to urgently establish what psychological situation they are in. They need to understand what we know up here at the surface, that it will take many weeks for them to reach the light," Health Minister Jaime Manalich explained.
The men already have been trapped underground longer than all but a few miners rescued in recent history. Last year, three miners survived 25 days trapped in a flooded mine in southern China, and two miners in northeastern China were rescued after 23 days in 1983. Few other rescues have taken more than two weeks.
The miners' survival after 17 days is very unusual, but since they've made it this far, they should emerge physically fine, said Davitt McAteer, who was assistant secretary for mine safety and health at the U.S. Labor Department under President Bill Clinton.