(Reuters) - One of 33 Chilean miners rescued in 2010 after spending 69 days underground in a collapsed mine has sent a message of encouragement and hope to 12 Thai boys and their soccer coach trapped in a flooded cave complex.
“I would like to send greetings and a lot of strength to the authorities and the families of these 12 children,” said Mario Sepulveda, using the handle @SuperMarioChile, in a video message posted on Twitter.
“I have no doubt that if the government of that country puts in everything and makes all the humanly possibly efforts, this rescue will be successful. May God bless you!”, said the miner wearing a red helmet and a yellow safety vest.
Rescue divers found the 12 boys and their coach on Monday, huddled on a muddy bank in a partly flooded chamber deep in the caves, nine days after they went missing, just before heavy rainy season showers hit the northern province of Chiang Rai.
They were pale and weak but otherwise in good health.
Now, authorities have to figure out how to get them out through several kilometres of flooded tunnels.
They might have to stay in the cave until floodwaters recede at the end of the rainy season in about four months.
The 33 Chilean miners spent more than two months underground after their copper and gold mine caved in on Aug. 5, 2010, trapping them about 625 meters (2,050 feet) down. For the first 17 days of their ordeal, they were all believed to have been killed.
But rescuers found the men with a bore hole the width of a grapefruit, which served as a lifeline to pass water and food, as well as items to keep their spirits up, while a plan to extract them was devised.
Eventually, all 33 were shuttled to safety up a narrow shaft one-by-one, in a specially designed steel capsule.
Their ordeal captured the attention of the world’s media, just as the fate of the Thai boys has.
“We are praying for each of you, for each of the families and for these children,” Sepulveda said.
“I want you to know that we know what you are going through – the anguish, the sadness, the desperation, and the agony that you are feeling,” his wife, Katty Valdivia, added in an email.
Reporting by Ng Yi Shu, Clara Ferreira-Marques and Chang-Ran Kim; Writing by Karishma Singh; Editing by Robert Birsel