Obama offers Chilean miners thoughts and prayers

President Barack Obama yesterday offered his “thoughts and prayers” to the 33 men trapped in a Chilean mine shortly before a rescue operation to end their 69-day ordeal was due to begin.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the brave miners, their families, and the men and women who have been working so hard to rescue them,” said a statement issued by the White House in English and Spanish.

Rescue workers hoped to pull the first of the trapped men from deep beneath Chile’s Atacama desert sometime late yesterday, but the pace of the delicate rescue operation was expected to be slow.

“While that rescue is far from over and difficult work remains, we pray that, by God’s grace, the miners will be able to emerge safely and return to their families soon,” Obama said.

“We are also proud of all of the Americans who have been working with our Chilean friends on the ground to do everything that we can to bring these miners home.”

The miners have been trapped since an August 5 cave-in at the gold and copper San Jose mine. For 17 days they were all but given up for dead before a probe drill found them.

Rescuers plan to winch them up, one by one, in a small capsule that will travel 622m to the mine’s surface.

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