Four of the 33 miners who had been trapped underground for two months ascended to the surface here early Wednesday morning, the beginning of the end of a rescue operation that has inspired the nation and riveted the world.
Deep in the mine, 29 other miners waited for their turn, along with a rescue worker who had descended to their underground haven in the narrow capsule, which was painted with the red, white and blue of the Chilean flag.
When the rescuer finally reached the miners late Tuesday, he was greeted with enthusiastic handshakes from the men, New York Times reports.
The miners - who were trapped underground on Aug. 5 - are being hoisted to the surface one at a time through the shaft, which took weeks to drill.
The capsule, dubbed Phoenix 1, was taking a little more than 15 minutes to make each one-way trip. The winch that raises the capsule was expected to move at a speed of 0.7 metres per second, but the capsule can be pulled as fast as three metres per second if needed. Two additional capsules were built to serve as backup if necessary.
Doctors said the miners could suffer nausea and heart palpitations and were concerned about the risk of blood clotting and heart attacks. Aspirin had been sent down to the men earlier Tuesday to thin their blood, CBC.ca says.