First miners winched to safety in Chile

The first of 33 miners trapped underground for more than two months in northern Chile have been winched to the surface amid scenes of jubilation.

Florencio Avalos was first to be freed, at 0010 local time (0310 GMT).

He was greeted by family and hugged by President Sebastian Pinera. Also to emerge were the only non-Chilean, Bolivian national Carlos Mamani, and the youngest miner, Jimmy Sanchez.

In an address at the mine, Mr Pinera declared the rescue a miracle.

Officials say they should be able to rescue one miner each hour.

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The rescue operation began shortly after 2315 local time (0215 GMT) with a technical expert, Manuel Gonzalez, being lowered down the 624m (2,047ft) rescue shaft.

Mr Gonzalez was supposed to return to the surface and report on the condition of the shaft, and then repeat the journey, before handing over to a paramedic.

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However, a live video feed from the refuge where the miners were gathered showed Mr Avalos preparing to be winched up immediately. He was chosen to lead the way because he was one of the fittest of the miners.

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