COPIAPO, Chile (Reuters) - Trapped Chilean miner Ariel Ticona became the proud father of newborn daughter Esperanza, or “Hope,” on Tuesday, but he must now wait weeks to hold her as rescuers drill down to free him and 32 companions.
Ticona’s wife Elizabeth named the child after “Camp Hope,” the settlement of tents relatives erected at the mine head after an underground cave-in more than 5 weeks ago. She will send Ticona a video of the birth down a tiny bore hole that serves as an umbilical cord keeping the miners alive.
“I can face this alone, and he has helped me to be calm through his letters,” Ticona’s wife said. “He’ll just have to be really patient. My children have spoken with him and I have been able to communicate with him daily.”
The bore hole is being used to pass food, medicine, water and letters to the trapped men deep underground. The miners have also been sent miniature projectors so they can watch videos of soccer greats like Maradona and Pele to help pass the time.
Facing one of the world’s most challenging rescue operations, engineers are using two drills to reach the miners stuck in a tunnel 2,300 feet below ground, and are erecting a third normally used to drill for oil.
Chile’s Navy has designed a pod that will be used to winch the men to the surface one by one through a bore hole just two feet in diameter — slightly bigger than the width of a man’s shoulders.
A team of NASA experts has been brought in to help keep the men mentally and physically fit during the protracted rescue bid. The men had each lost an estimated 22 pounds (10 kg) during the 17 days before they were found alive.
They have been sent high energy foods to boost their strength, and they are now in good health. Nutritionists are preparing traditional meat pies to help the men celebrate Chile’s bicentennial on September 18.
Ticona’s mother, Maria Yanez, can’t wait for her family to be united.
“I’m a little sad my son was not able to witness the birth of his daughter,” Yanez told Reuters Television at the clinic in the northern city of Copiapo, near the mine.
“I’d have liked him to have been there, but it wasn’t to be. The video will help cheer him up.”
Writing by Simon Gardner; editing by Christopher Wilson