28 Aug 2010

Images shown of trapped miners

4:14 pm on 28 August 2010

Video images have been shown in Chile of the 33 miners trapped underground at a copper mine in the north of the country.

The pictures were taken with a camera lowered down a borehole.

In the video, one of the miners can be seen explaining how they run the shelter where they have lived for the past 22 days.

The BBC reports a first aid cabinet, shelves holding unidentified bottles, mats in a corner for rest, and a set of dominos can be seen against one wall of the shelter.

At one point, a thermometer reading 29.5 degrees is shown.

Miners depressed

Some of the Chilean miners trapped in a collapsed shaft have begun to show signs of depression, officials say.

Health Minister Jaime Manalich said five of the 33 miners were not eating properly and had refused to be filmed.

Mr Manalich said psychologists would attempt to treat the men from the surface over an intercom system.

Engineers say work on an escape tunnel, which may take four months to reach the miners, will have started by Monday.

Company assets frozen

On Thursday, a judge froze $US1.8 million in assets belonging to the company that owns the mine in case it has to pay compensation.

The families of 28 of the miners have filed criminal negligence lawsuits against San Esteban Mining and several safety inspectors from the National Geology and Mine Service, which allowed the mine to re-open in 2008, a year after it was shut following an accident.

Unconfirmed reports say San Esteban is on the verge of bankruptcy and cannot afford the miners' wages. The company is also thought to have neither the equipment to rescue the men nor the means to pay for it.

The men have been trapped since 5 August after a tunnel collapsed. They were only discovered to be alive last Sunday.

Drilling scheduled to begin

Officials say drilling of an escape shaft could begin in two days.

Heavy machinery from Spain and Australia, including a 29 tonne hydraulic bore, is being assembled at the mine.

The miners are getting rehydration drinks, some solid food and anti-depressants through one of three bore holes from the surface.

Psychologists are helping the families choose who will speak to them on a modified telephone and instructing them to be careful about what they say to help maintain their psychological health.

Next week, doctors from NASA, who are experts in keeping astronauts alive and well on long missions in confined spaces, will arrive in Chile to help.

The miners were told on Wednesday it could take up to four months to rescue them.

Some of the miners have begun to show signs of depression.

Officials say five of them are not eating properly and have refused to be filmed.