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Miner Rescue Gets Under Way Soon

Aired October 12, 2010 - 19:00   ET


JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks, Wolf. And good evening, everyone.

Tonight, we'll continue our coverage of the dramatic breaking news in Chile where 33 the miners have been trapped a half mile under ground for 69 days now. Chile's president is on the scene for what he calls the end of a long journey.

Just minutes ago, an official said the rescue pod -- a 900-pound container called the Phoenix capsule -- is expected to be lowered into the San Jose Gold and Copper Mine in the next couple of hours. Later it should carry the first member of the rescue team down into the shaft.

Family members are on hand of course hoping the waiting ends and the celebration begins tonight.

Also on hand, a small army of doctors, mental health professionals and engineers, not to mention some 1,400 journalists documenting a story that has captured the world's imagination.

On hand for us Karl Penhaul and Gary Tuchman. They're at the mine site near Copiapo and Patrick Oppmann who's at a hospital where the men are to be treated once they reached the surface. The first expected to reach the surface by midnight tonight, we are told.

Also with us to discuss the medical and psychological challenges ahead are CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Dr. Larry Palinkas, an expert on how people survive in extreme environments.

We're waiting the latest from the scene. Our correspondents are getting the latest information. But let's begin with Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Sanjay, the families have gathered. You see the capsule being put in place. The minister has just said by midnight tonight they expect the first miner to make it to the surface. Give us your sense from a medical standpoint of the preparations underneath and the challenges, the challenges, as we hope a miracle unfolds tonight.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they're trying to leave nothing to chance. I think that's the best way to characterize it, John.

You know, what you're seeing here, what's about to unfold, nothing quite like it has ever happened before. The nature of this particular rescue, the nature of the isolation of these men, the various medical challenges they've had, and the hot condition and the humid condition so far below the surface of the earth for this long.

So dotting all the I's and crossing all the T's, things that may seem minor, John, you know, the humidity and the potential skin infections that can cause, too. More major problems like a cardiovascular or heart problem that could occur during the rescue itself. They want to prevent all those sorts of things.

What you'll see when the miners get to the surface, John, is exactly the sort of thing that you might expect to see. They want to make sure that the airway of the miner is working properly, the lungs are working properly. The heart. They're going to -- you're going to see a stethoscope probably on the chest listening to those things.

They may have to give IV fluids back to the miners. It's going to be dark, I think, at that time, John, but obviously there'll be a lot of artificial lights, so protecting the eyes of the miners.

These are just some examples of the things that you'll see. But, you know, everything from lack of vitamin D to lack of exposure to germs and viruses on the surface of the earth over the last two months, they -- I've been reading some of these plans, John. They're really -- it seems they're leaving nothing to chance so far -- John.

KING: Sanjay is going to stay with us. As you see these live pictures on the scene, just in the last few minutes, dusk has settled in. You see it's starting to get dark as they prepare Phoenix capsule. You can see it if you look closely. The Phoenix capsule still lying on the ground. That will be stood. It will be dropped in.

As Sanjay noted, a rescue worker will go down with it. The current plan -- and this had been changing quickly -- is for five rescue workers in all to go down, one to go down at first, a miner comes out, another rescue worker goes down, and so on.

Gary Tuchman is right there on the scene with us.

Gary, many had hoped that the capsule, the Phoenix capsule, would go in during the 6:00 hour here in the East. That has been delayed at least a few more hours. Are they just double checking and triple checking to make sure they have this right or do you have any indications that they have any problems?

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No, they're not having any serious problems. They want to make sure they have it right, John.

They're really in no rush. I mean these men have survived for 68 days. It's been very difficult. But the fact is, they're all in very good condition. They know what's going on and they do want to do this -- much of this action and get these 33 men out during the dusk or nighttime.

Because one of the problems is these men have been under ground for seven weeks. They haven't seen any light. They've been in the dark. They're afraid that what might happen when they come up and that's what will happen to some people tomorrow because this is expected to last 24, 36 hours, when they bring up 33 people.

But they prefer to do most of it at night where the light can be more gentle as the people come up. But the fact is that there's so much excitement here at this camp. They call it Camp Hope because for weeks now they've had hope that these men would get up safe and sound. And right now it certainly appears that way, so the idea is to bring down the path.

So we've heard different things over the last couple of hours and it's hard for us to say with certainty how many experts, medical officials, and how many mine rescue officials they plan to bring down.

But right now the latest is they will bring down at least one and up to five. They'll ascertain the situation at the ground and then the process will start bringing up the 33 men. The first man, we believe, to come up is the man by the name of Florencio Antonio Avalos Silva. He's 30 years old and he has been the cameraman on the ground. He's been documenting the exploits of the 33 miners.

The feeling is that the first few people they want to bring up, John, are in good mental, emotional and physical condition because they're not exactly sure how these men will adapt to the ride up on the cylinder.

They're hoping everything goes OK. Once they see the first few come up fine, then they'll take people who are in not so great condition. Obviously, they have had to be in good condition to survive this whole time. But there are two men in particular, one with diabetes, one with hypertension. They will come up very early, too.

But the idea is they were talking about 16 or 17 minutes each ride, one at a time, so it will take at least until tomorrow and possibly into Friday.

KING: And Gary, as we watch, I should note the Phoenix capsule, people see there, it weighs about 920 pounds. It will go down into this shaft.

Gary, obviously, as the families wait, they expect their miracle to being to unfold tonight, what happens if -- once a miner comes to the surface, obviously they will go to the hospital for tests, because of the stresses, the obvious stress and the potential for additional medical stresses of the families, will they be reunited immediately? Are there plans to do that slowly?

TUCHMAN: Here's the exact routine, John. Once they come out of the hole, right behind the hole where they're coming out -- the hole by the way looks like a sewer cap. If you don't know what's going on here, you were just hearing on the news, you might think of a sewer accident or something. But that's where they've been drilling the 2300 feet.

The men will come out, one at time, out of the sewer cap. They will then go into a temporary triage facility that's been built right behind us. So take a look at that. Meanwhile, this whole time their family members will be permitted to be nearby watching this take place.

There are three white fence set up on the ground. Three people from each family will be allowed in each of the tents. They will keep shuttling family members here as their loved ones time to be brought time. They'll be watching this. And then once their loved one is finished in the triage center, they will be transported to a reunion center, a whole another building.

And that's where they will greet their family members, hugs, kisses, discussions. All kinds of fun stuff. And then they will oblige to break up their reunion for the time being and fly in a helicopter to a permanent hospital facility about 15 minutes away from here by air.

They'll be treated and then hopefully released and then they can go on with their lives that have been interrupted for the last 68 days.

KING: Gary Tuchman is on the scene for us. We'll get back to Gary throughout the hour as we follow this dramatic breaking news.

And as Gary was reporting, you see the Phoenix capsule has now been lifted. It is upright. It has been lifted by the wrench. It is right near where Gary described and you see it right there. It looks just like a sewer. If you've ever been in a major city in America you've seen a scene like that.

It looks like a sewer. That is the shaft that will take the Phoenix capsule down into the ground a half mile deep.

I want to bring Dr. Lawrence Palinkas into the conversation. As I do, I want to walk over to the magic wall here. Please keep those photos up on the screen. Maybe we can split the screen because I want to show how this played out, and this is a sense of how they drilled this.

They were up on the surface, of course, and they started to drill three shafts down. You'll see the middle one keep going. Plan B, if you will. They had the most success. They got down deep into core of this cooper and gold mine. Here are the miners trapped in the shaft underneath.

They reinforced the scene there. And this is how this is supposed to unfold this evening. You'll watch, this is the Phoenix capsule, it comes down. Once a miner gets in, they establish communications with the top. They make sure all is well. And then up to the shaft it will go.

And as Gary just noted, they can do this rather quickly, or they can do it slowly based on the health, the conversations with the miner on the way up, up to the surface. And then here is where they will get immediate medical attention, of course. Dr. Palinkas, in terms of the stress of these workers who, yes, they've been under ground these 69 days. Yes, that is a remarkable stressful environment. But they have been together. They have been communicating as a group.

When these miners come up, especially those who might not be in the best of conditions, when they get alone in the shaft, what are the risks and the stresses?

DR. LARRY PALINKAS, UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA: Well, I expect, John, that, you know, for that brief period of time, there will be certainly anxiety, certainly anticipation, and above all a strong desire to -- that the event is over as quickly as possible.

Right now they're entirely focused on the rescue phase, the process of moving through the tunnel to the surface. All of their energies both physical and psychological are committed to that singular event.

While there will be some anxiety, particularly among the initial rescuees as well as among those who are the last to go, that once they begin to see that the process can be done without incident, without further cave-ins, then I think as things begin to proceed smoothly, that level of anxiety will reduce as well.

KING: And Dr. Palinkas, to you first, and I want to bring Dr. Gupta back into the conversation, explain -- and I think some of this is self-evident. But explain why they think it's so important to send down first one then a second, and perhaps as many as five rescue workers who I'm sure themselves have both technical expertise but also some medical expertise to get down into the shaft as this process takes course over what could be 24 hours or a bit longer?

Dr. Palinkas, to you first.

PALINKAS: Well, I think perhaps one of the most important benefits of doing that is it reduces the sense of uncertainty about the prospect of traveling through the tunnel and the risks associated with that.

That will help to reduce the anxiety levels of the miners. Seeing new faces of themselves will certainly be a big benefit for the miners because all they have had to interact with on a face-to-face basis for the last few months is each other and having new people in the shaft will re-enforce the sense that there is an outside world and they're about ready to enter that world.

KING: And so, Dr. Gupta, if you were waiting on the surface and you knew they were starting to bring these miners up, and they've been together these 69 days and then they're going to come one at a time out of this shaft, which has to be an unnerving and somewhat frightening, even though at the same time exhilarating, an anticipatory experience, what would you be worried about at the top?

GUPTA: Well, you know, one of the things that from a physical standpoint that will be done down in the mine is to make sure they can actually tolerate this ride up. The psychological effects you've just heard about.

But also, you know, things like measuring the blood pressure, measuring the heart rate, listening to the lungs down in the mine, and maybe even doing things, John, like putting on pressure garments on the lower extremities to force the fluid and the blood up into the heart and into brain so someone, you know, doesn't pass out during the rescue mission itself.

That could be a disaster because you can't lie someone down obviously during that part of the mission. So that's a big deal. That's part of the reason that they send people down ahead of time.

But also when they get to the surface again, you know, one thing about medical triage is the basics really do apply, John. As we were talking about earlier, we want to make sure the heart, the lungs are working properly. They may need to receive IV fluids quickly. That's something that can be done as well. Maybe even get antibiotics if the need seems to be there for skin infections and inoculations so they can ward off any potential infections down the road.

But ABC, John. Airway, breathing, circulation. That's going to be what you're going to be seeing transpiring. If you look closely when the miners come up, what the doctors, what the rescue workers, what the paramedics are doing on the surface, it's really ABC, John.

KING: Remarkable. Dr. Gupta is going to stay with us. Dr. Palinkas as well.

We're going to work in a quick break. But before we go I just want to walk over here and show you the live pictures. Again this is the Phoenix capsule, and you see all these technicians and engineers doing work on it. They're checking everything. They're on the bottom.

There are collapsible wheels that will go in as it goes down the chute. They will help to keep it straight up. They're checking everything, the communications, there's oxygen tanks inside. Remarkable work unfolding. This right at the top of the shaft that will take this down a half mile deep into the San Jose Gold and Copper Mine, as the operation unfolds.

We have reporters on the scene. We have experts to help us. We're going to keep our eye on this. A quick break. We'll be back with this dramatic breaking news in just a minute.


KING: Pictures there of the camp near the San Jose Copper and Gold Mine in -- Copiapo, Chile where we are hoping that we are watching tonight the makings of a miracle.

Miners who have been trapped under ground for 69 days. There are 33 of them. The Phoenix capsule as it's called is a 924-pound tube that hopefully within the next few hours will be lowered down with the first of the rescue workers and then by midnight tonight the government of Chile saying the first of those miners should come up to the surface. Hopefully in good health and good spirits.

Let's continue our coverage of this dramatic breaking news. And we have reporters on the scene. At the moment, I want to continue our conversation with Dr. Lawrence Palinkas. He's out in California. He's an expert on how people live under conditions of confinement and isolation.

And, Doctor, as you watch them prepare to put that Phoenix tube down in, as you have studied cases in the past, what are the stresses, the physical stresses, and the psychological stresses on these miners once they get into that tube?

PALINKAS: Well, undoubtedly because of the because of the lack of daylight and the ability to regulate the body's circadian rhythms. These miners are going to be fatigues, exhausted both physically as well as emotionally. And so being expected to perform at a level that requires a great deal of adrenaline, a great deal of vigilance and cognitive focus is going to be a challenge for them. Even if it's only for that brief period of time that they're traveling through the tunnel.

Psychologically, they spent the last two months away from family, concerns about the welfare of family, it's probably been more important to them than even their own physical condition. And even though that may not be as important during the 20 minutes that they're in the tunnel, that is certainly something that has set the stage for them.

So the fact that they may have had some difficulty sleeping as we've heard some of the relatives reporting, the fact that they are fatigued, the facts that they have been living in an environment of very restricted stimulation are things that they bring with them once they enter that tunnel and return to the surface.

KING: And Doctor, stay with me. I just want to tell our viewers, you were seeing moments ago the dark pictures of the camp, the encampment around this mine, and it is a huge encampment where the families of the workers, the journalists have been staying.

As you can see night is falling. You see two cranes right there moments ago. You saw the winch at the top of the shaft. We're doing our best to give you the live photos from the scene. The darkness will complicate this but we will stay on it.

You know, Doctor, we've heard all of our correspondents on the scene, and we've heard all of the experts say over and over again this has never been done before. We've never experienced anything like this before.

So what can we compare it to? You've studied conditions -- people who survived in conditions in out of space, in Antarctica. What do we compare this to?

PALINKAS: Well, it's very true that we are writing a new chapter in the experience of isolation and confinement. Now back in the days of polar exploration when explorers like Scott Namanson made dashes to the South Pole and oftentimes were forced to spends an additional year in the Antarctic simply because their ships had been encased in ice and they weren't able to return home.

That might be the closest parallel that we come to in this situation because in both instances the isolation confinement is involuntary. These people, miners certainly didn't expect to be spending the next two months under ground the day that they went to work two months ago.

So that probably comes closest. Nowadays when we have regularly scheduled travel to and from remote and isolated locations, including the International Space Station, delays are often measured in a matter of days if not weeks, certainly not in a matter of months.

KING: You make an important point about that, so we'll watch this and as we watch what we hope is a miracle unfolding before us tonight, the obvious, immediate pressures and questions are when the miners reach the surface and what medical condition are they in and what care and conditioning do they need.

And there are the physical just adjustments in terms of the first time they see light in 69 days. And how they need to go through that. But what about a week or a month or six weeks down the line?

Assuming all goes well and these miners are rescued, what are the thing you would watch? What are the guide posts you would set down the road to check on the adjustments back if you will?

PALINKAS: Well, undoubtedly some of these individuals have already begun to manifest symptoms of post-traumatic stress. And largely because for the first 18 days of the confinement, they didn't even know if the outside world was aware if they were alive or not, and they didn't even know if rescue was a possibility.

So undoubtedly individuals will begin to exhibit symptoms of withdrawal, symptoms of avoidance, of anything that will remind them of the experience they went through. Symptoms of arousal where physiological changes will occur any time they are reminded.

But in addition to that, there may be individuals who experience what's called post traumatic growth. In other words they'll have come to the conclusion that if they have -- can survive this event, they can survive pretty much anything and they will emerge from this with an enhanced sense of self-confidence or self-efficacy.

But all of them I think will go through a process of trying to assess the meaning of this event in their lives. Not only trying to answer the question why me? Why was I the one down there that day? But also what happens now? Where do I go from here? How should interpret this as a significant event in my life?

That -- undoubtedly all of them will be wrestling with for the next three to six months.

KING: It is a fascinating perspective. Dr. Palinkas will stay with us. You're watching live pictures from the scene. Right at the top of the triangle shaped structure you see there is the winch that will drop the Phoenix capsule down into the mine shaft.

It essentially looks like a city sewer. It is a shaft that will take that capsule down a half mile deep and by midnight tonight the Chilean government saying they expect the first of these miners who've been trapped for 69 days now, 33 of them, to make it to the surface.

We're going to take a quick break. When we come back, straight to the scene of the breaking news. Our Karl Penhaul is there.


KING: Live pictures there, you see darkness falling at the scene of a dramatic breaking story tonight. That is the gold and copper mine near Copiapo, Chile where the Phoenix capsule as it is called and there you see the winch at the top, a better lighting there because they have lighting to help those workers.

The Phoenix capsule is on the ground at the feet of those workers. They are trying to lower it within the next couple of hours and by midnight tonight, they believe they will bring the first of 33 miners trapped a half mile underground in that mine for 69 days now.

The hope is to bring them to the surface. In a moment, we'll check in with our reporters on the scene.

Also on the scene is Sebastian Pinera. He is the president of Chile. He has been visiting the mine constantly. And as he arrived on the scene tonight, and as the Phoenix capsule arrived on the scene tonight, the president of Chile saying he believes after 69 days what he calls a long journey is about to reach its conclusion.


PRES. SEBASTIAN PINERA, CHILE (Through Translator): I hope that tonight is going to be an explosion of happiness and joy. I know that tonight there are going to be tears of happiness in all Chilean homes.

And I also know as I have been able to see with my own eyes that the whole world is going to share this joy of these 33 miners and the 33 million Chileans, we're going to have an unforgettable night.


KING: As the president is on the scene waiting for this to unfold, and again, that structure you see on your screen is the winch. You see the wheel of the winch up top. That will lower the capsule down with one rescue worker in it at the beginning. When they get set at the bottom, the first of the 33 miners will come up. Another rescue worker will go down.

That process could take 24 hours or longer as it goes forward. There is communication in the pod. There will be oxygen masks for those coming up as well. And we will see how this play out.

Also on the scene was the Chilean health minister who explained to reporters and to the family members and to the worldwide audience listening what they worry about most as those miners get into the pod and begin to come to the surface.


JAIME MANALICH, CHILEAN MINISTER OF HEALTH: The condition we fear the most and we are trying to prepare these men for the acute distress condition they have to face during those 15, 20, or 25 minutes, and I think they're going to make it.


KING: Our chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta is with us.

And Sanjay, when the health minister talks about a panic attack and trying to prepare the miners for that panic attack they might face once they're in the Phoenix capsule and coming up the shaft, A, describe from a medical sense -- I can describe from a layman sense what I think that is, but what is it from a medical sense a panic attack and how do you prepare?

GUPTA: Well, it's a profound sense of anxiety as people might know by the term itself. But the physical component of it is something that doctors really want to be mindful of. During a panic attack, someone can start to drop their blood pressure, they could start to become quite faint, lightheaded, even pass out.

So that obviously could be a terrible situation. You can't really maneuver someone's body at that point. You can't put their head below their heart, all the things you might do when somebody is passed out. So they really want to avoid that from happening.

Sedation is something that was talked about. It's been ruled out as a possibility. So it's going to be a lot more about constant communication with the miner as they are being rescued and also the preparation down in the mine itself by the medical workers making sure for example there is enough blood pressure within the body using things like pressure garments, using salt tablets, so even if they do start to become what is called little vagal, nasal vagal, which means you start to lower your blood pressure that there's enough reserved so to speak, John, that they don't start to have physical medical consequences as a result.

So everyone's going to be different. There are some people who are going to be -- this is going to be a walk in the park, frankly, for them, and other people, this is going to be a nightmare so it's hard to predict exactly how it's going to affect any given individual, John.

KING: Sanjay, the miner were trapped on August 5th. It is August 23rd, 18 days later when they get a probe drilled through the rock where they're able to communicate with them and they're able to get them food and water and medicines if necessary. Knowing at that point, August 23, they knew it would be a couple of months, they weren't sure exactly how long, in terms of diet and nutrition, sustenance, what are the challenges, what do you do specifically knowing these gentlemen could be down there for quite some time? GUPTA: It's an interesting thing and it's safe to say again that what's happening is really unprecedented in all sorts of different scenarios including the medical one. You want to make sure you're providing a good, healthy diet, obviously, but also they want to make sure that people who can't get exercise that are in this hot, humid condition, that their cardiac system, their heart and their respiratory system don't start to really diminish significantly. That could be a real problem, certainly during the rescue itself but also during the immediate aftermath. The types of food they had chosen, some of the folks may have needed to become a little leaner to partake in the rescue mission itself, and also the types of foods that you give, a certain amount of sodium in it to make sure that the cardiovascular system stays optimized I think is really important. These may sound like trivial things, like small things, but they become so important in times like this over the next day or so as each person is coming up being rescued.

KING: Sanjay is going to stay with us as we watch this drama unfold. You're seeing those pictures right there. That is some of the first video that came back to the surface once they drilled that hole and they were able to get not only food and water down into the hole but also a camera. These psychologically were so important not just to the miners under the surface who were receiving notes from their families but to the family members up in the town around this mine. And in the town now is our Patrick Oppman who has been on the scene at the mine but now is in the town. Patrick, describe for us the mood among the town's people there as they know this moment they have been waiting for is now an hour or two ahead of them.

PATRICK OPPMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And what an amazing evening it is, hundreds of people have left work, come into the streets, right behind me here, looking at the wide screen TV, they say they will stay here all night, all morning until we see every one of these miners freed. We see hundreds of people pouring into the streets of town square where many of these miners are from, this is the hometown of many of these miners, their friends, some people who don't even know them have come out here to show their support. This is the mining country for Chile. Mining is not only a way of life, it is the way of life. They want to see all these miners come up safe. They are holding flags saying long live the miners. There's excitement and electricity in the air tonight, as people are driving about 30 minutes or so from the mine, these people are with the miners in spirit. They all want to see them come home safely.

KING: Patrick Oppman on the scene for us; Patrick, stay right there, we'll check back with you, a dramatic sense of anticipation building as it should, the entire town, and especially of course the family members of the 33 trapped miners waiting for a miracle to unfold tonight. We will keep an eye on this story. Those pictures you see, we should make clear, that is the encampment around the mine. This is a live feed we are getting from the scene. We do not control this camera. That is why sometimes it turns away from the dramatic scene, the building scene and the construction right at the top of the shaft where the phoenix capsule will soon be lowered down into the shaft. We don't control the camera, but we'll bring the latest as we go. A quick break here now. We'll continue our coverage in just a moment.


KING: Live pictures there, you see the scene. That is the structure, the winch is on top of that, the phoenix capsule, you can't see it because the workers have it surrounded. They just switched the picture. We don't control that camera. The phoenix capsule, they're working on it, checking the lines to it, checking the harnesses inside, checking the oxygen inside, the communication, the cameras and the lighting inside. Within a couple of hours we are told by the Chilean government it will be lowered down into the mine. That phoenix capsule, one at a time is going to bring those 33 miners back to the surface. There again you see the scene at the top.

I want to get back to our medical experts in just a moment but first let's wander through the timeline just to refresh your memory of how this ordeal has played out. It was on August 5 that the mine collapsed, 2,300 feet under ground, 33 men trapped. August 5, think back where we are into October as this played out. It was August 22, the miners send a note saying they're alive. Imagine the stress on the families and the stress on the miners, the disconnect all that. There's the president of Chile holding that note August 27, into the ordeal. On August 26, the miners send a video message to their families saying they are doing well that they will survive and voicing their determination to survive this ordeal. August 30, the month-long rescue plans begin. Up at the surface, they start drilling down plan a, b and c, it is plan b that made it down. On October 9, the drill pierces the roof. We should you that on the animation earlier, where they are, essentially the bunker under ground, the drill pierces the roof on October 9. These are the 33 miners that have been trapped down there all this time. It is this miner here, a young healthy miner who has been manning a small camera down there sending the videos up. He is, we are told, the first miner to come up. On that point I want to bring Dr. Lawrence Palinkas back into the conversation.

Doctor, this miner was chosen on purpose because he is young, because he is in good health, because he is believed to be mentally about as sharp as any of the miners down there, because they want to have constant and good communications with them on the way up essentially to test how fast should we go, how bumpy is the ride, how much stress is being caused for him. Explain why that is so important.

We have lost Dr. Palikas. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, can you pick that one up? Dr. Palinkas, in terms of using one of the miners who's of sharp mind and spirit, why is that important to be the first miner up, not somebody who, say, might need medical attention?

PALINKAS: I'm sure they're all feeling a little apprehensive about what this is going to involve, whether there will be any drawbacks or any risks or hazards, having one of the healthier miner who is possesses both the physical and the psychological resources necessary to make the transit through the tunnel will be, I think a source of assurance for the rest of the miners knowing that if that one individual will make it and essentially set the trail or blaze the path if you will, that level of reassurance will make that process much easier for the rest. As I said the greatest anxiety is going to be among the first to go and the last to go. There's going to be a gate deal of psychological as well as physical strength to endure that rescue attempt will definitely be reassuring for the reminder of the miners.

KING: Dr. Palinkas, thank you. As you see, our viewers are seeing these pictures as they come in to us. You see medical personnel gathered there as well, a stretcher there. That is all part of the preparations, a lot of preparations, first the mechanical, the engineering work, then obviously having the medical teams on stand by as well. You see the medical workers who have been working on the capsule. Let's bring into the conversation now from the Johnson Space Center in Houston, two NASA employees who are in Chile to help with the rescue effort and planning, psychologist Albert Holland and Dr. J.D. Polk. Gentlemen, thank you for joining us. As you watch these dramatic pictures unfold, take us back to your time there, obviously what you're seeing now is part of the plan you helped consult with, as we are an hour or so away from starting to lower the cab suddenly down, what do you see as the immediate challenge.

DR. J.D. POLK, NASA: Obviously the immediate challenge is to make sure there are no contingencies that occur, whether that be falling rock as the capsule descends and ascends properly as designed and that the miners can with stand the physiologic aspects of going up in a very small tube, if you can imagine 21 inches in diameter and if your blood pressure falls you don't have a lot of ability to recuperate that by lying down.

KING: Dr. Holland from your time there, go through what your questions were while that you were in Chile and the preparations being made psychologically to prepare the miners psychologically not only for that's isolated trip up, but for the very different world waiting on the surface.

ALBERT HOLLAND, NASA: The first order of business was to try to alter their mind set from a very short term sprint mind set to a long term marathon set of expectations as to how long they would be confined. Secondly, we wanted to give them some information on individual and team management and confinement because there is a way to do that and third we did want to talk with the circadian issues. In training their sleep-wake cycles, so they would have more individual stability, sleep, rest, and finally reintegration back into the home.

KING: We have been discussing throughout this hour and throughout the past 69 days, this has never been done before, each of you please, relay why NASA, what experience does NASA have, some of it is obvious to us, those long voyages up in the space station, but take those experiences and your expertise and how you applied them to this situation here.

POLK: It was actually surprising to Al and I and Mike Duncan one of our other colleagues when we got down to Chile. We had some preconceived notions as to what would apply from space fright to the mine. And as we go into the operation, and learned more about the conditions the miners were having to endure, more and more aspects of what we do actually applied. And it was quite surprising, that may relay from nutrition, including re-feeding folks who have been at decreased nutrition or starving. We had planned on contingencies for the space shuttle in orbit in case the crew needed to decrease their calories. The fluid loading protocol that they're going through now to make sure that their blood pressure stays up is very close to what we use and adapted from the one that we use on the space shuttle. Using the psychological aspects, for long duration space flight as well. There are many aspects that actually apply from space flight that were actually even surprising to us.

KING: From that point when somebody comes back, do you know in a week if they're making the integration? Do you know in a month? Does it take three months or six months?

HOLLAND: Actually it's a process that begins when they come out immediately and it extends for several months and there are different stages a person is likely to go through. First of all they're going to come out to the notoriety and the clamor of the media and reintegration with their families and it's going to be pretty overwhelming so for the first two days you want to make sure that they're gradually exposed to this sort of attention and this sort of social pressure, allow them to adjust to that and then as the clamor recedes, they're going to have to adapt again to getting back to the daily laundry and picking up the reins of their normal lives. They'll be looked at. They'll be offered the opportunity to have counseling, to touch base in a systematic way with a professional over a period of six months or so. And it will be important for the professionals to follow both them and their families.

KING: Dr. J.D. Polk is NASA's chief of space medicine. Albert Holland is NASA's senior operational psychologist. They're going to stay with us from the Johnson Space Center. They were in Chile to help with the planning for this dramatic rescue operation you see under way. Dr. Sanjay Gupta is still with us, our reporters on the scene as well. A quick break here as you see the operation unfolding right there. That is the winch that will lower the phoenix capsule into that mine. By midnight tonight, the government of Chile saying the 33 miners should begin to come back to the surface. We're following a dramatic news story, stay with us.


KING: We're watching breaking developments tonight of that mine in Chile, the latest word, a couple of hours perhaps before a capsule will carry the first of the rescue workers down. Those miners have been trapped under ground for more than two months now. If all goes according to plan, the men will be hoisted to the surface in a 924- pound rescue pod, each rescue will take about an hour, perhaps more if there are complications. Some will be faster than others depending on the health and the communication with the miners on the way up. As you watch right there, you have a good shot there live picture. That is the phoenix capsule. They are testing everything on this, the hatch that opens, there are oxygen tanks inside, there are harnesses to hold the workers in. You can see right where the white paint is at the end of this, there are collapsible wheels. Those wheels will guide it down into the shaft. I'm going to try to walk around here if they don't shift this picture in time. These wheels right here, they will guide it down the shaft. They also have hinges on them. So where the shaft gets tighter and the wheels pop back into the capsule and pop back out when necessary. That is the shaft they have been working on now for quite some time. You can see some of the steel cables that carry it down. As we wait for all of this to unfold, not only do we have the workers on the scene, the family nearby, 1400 journalists because this story has captured the world's imagination, right there in the center of town nearby, the entire community has turned out to watch this unfold. They are praying for a miracle tonight and Patrick Oppman is there with them. Patrick, describe the scene.

OPPMAN: It's an amazing scene. We've seen hundreds of people come out of the darkness to fill this town square. We are in the town of Copiapo. This is the hometown of most of those miners. This is a mining community and people who know the miners. Right now I'm next to a school teacher of two of the miners. She said that she will be here throughout the night watching. She will bet here. Many of the people will be here. After the miners are brought above ground they will have a chance to see their families. They will be brought by helicopter a half mile to where I'm standing to the hospital, John, being checked out by a number of physicians. This has been weeks of preparation at this hospital to receive all 33 men. No one has gone through exactly what they've gone through and they're quite sure how their eyes will do, isolated from the world, not being exposed to any germs. Doctors really want to give a thorough check of these men before they go home to their families. John?

KING: Remarkable reporting from Patrick Oppman who's been on the scene. It's so heartwarming to see the families there, to see the young children, to see the entire town waiting and again they expect a miracle tonight and as you see, while Patrick was speaking, they once again have lifted upright. This is the phoenix capsule and right down here is what looks like a city sewer cover and that has been opened and within an hour or so they expect to drop this down but they are testing everything. They want this to go right the first time. When they're ready to drop it down, a rescue worker, there's a hatch here. A rescue worker will get in, will go down and will make sure everything's all right on the downside, about a half mile deep and then the first of the miners will come up and this will go on and on for hours until they are done. Right on the scene watching all of this unfold is our Gary Tuchman who joins us now with the latest.

TUCHMAN: It's spring here in South America but it's a winter evening, the feeling here right now in Chile. Nevertheless there's a very warm feeling among the people here in camp hope. This is the scene right behind me where this is taking place right now. You can see the yellow beams where they're about to drop that huge cylinder down with the mine rescue experts and hopefully strike across very sooner bringing the 33 up and I will tell you last night just as we were walking through camp hope, relatives were so elated and so happy and I'll be very blunt with you. A lot of them were having bubbly celebrations with champagne and wine and they are so looking forward to this evening and looking forward to the possible and likely and hopeful good result. So right now you have a lot of relatives watching this on television, too. They are bringing three sets of relatives here at a time. As they bring the miners up, they'll waiting inside a tent just outside the facility here and when a miner comes up, they will get to meet with their loved one in a special reunion room and then they will be flown in a helicopter to a nearby hospital for a thorough examination. They'll do it 33 times. It could take until Thursday or Friday. But they are hopeful, expecting and excited about a good outcome here. John?

KING: Gary Tuchman on the scene for us. We'll keep in touch as it unfolds. You can see the workers right here. There are the giant wheels of cable that is going to lower the phoenix capsule. There is also a communication capsule. We're going to take a quick break and we'll be right back. We're watching this dramatic operation unfold. They are expecting the capsule to arrive within the next couple of hours. Stay with us.


KING: We're back with continuing coverage of this dramatic breaking news story. You see right here, this is the top of the shaft. Again it looks like a city sewer cover. This is the top of the shaft that has been drilled a half mile deep into the San Jose gold and copper mine. You can see a cable going down and we're making assumptions but it looks like a communication cable of some sort. These yellow steel, the triangle here, that is holding the winch that will ultimately lower the phoenix capsule that will go down, carrying a rescue worker down. Dr. Sanjay Gupta is with us. Sanjay they expect by midnight to bring up the first of these miners. We're trying to get a sense from you from a medical planning standpoint, when the anticipation gets so high, what is going on right now down in that bunker as they try to organize for an ordeal that could take a couple of days?

GUPTA: There's no rushing. I think that's safe to say. At this point after so many days, they want to make sure that they've dotted every I and crossed every T and make sure to address every potential concern, minor or major. We've talked about minor concerns can turn into more problematic concerns. I think that's something that you will see. The timelines that have been established may get broken and that's not going to be a surprise I think for people who are on the ground over there. You know, when you think about this 15 to 20 minute rescue mission for each miner, you've got to look at the worst case scenario. If someone becomes light-headed or faints or passes out, that could be problematic. They want to do everything to prevent that from happening, give enough fluids for example to the person being rescued. But you don't want to give too much because that could make it difficult for them to breath for example, putting pressure garments on the lower extremities to make sure the heart is pumping as efficiently as possible. But they've been in this damp, hot conditions for a very long time. Some of this is unprecedented in terms of how to best medically triage down in the mines. Once the miners get to the surface you're going to see very standardized medical triage, checking the airway, checking the breathing, checking the circulation, and that will be done immediately and then off to the field hospital, John.

KING: Dr. Gupta will stay with us throughout the night as we cover this dramatic breaking story. You see right here the top of the shaft. They're expecting within an hour or so the phoenix capsule to be lowered down. You see a cable being lowered down in the meantime. All these workers at the top. This is the making of what they hope to be a miracle tonight. Our coverage continues now with the Chile mine rescue with Anderson Cooper.