Chilean miners say God never left them

The last of the 33 miners who were trapped underground for over two months was pulled out to safety Wednesday evening.

After the successful rescue, Chilean President Sebastian Pinera thanked the families of the miners "who maintained faith – this faith that ended up moving mountains".

The plight of the miners captured the attention of people around the world who watched on TV as each miner emerge from underground in "Phoenix" escape capsules. There were loud cheers as each miner stepped out of the capsule.

The rescue began on Tuesday night and surpassed all expectations when it was completed within 24 hours.

Mario Sepulveda, 40, was the second miner to be lifted up after being trapped some 2,000 feet underground since August 5.

He told CNN through a translator, "I was with God and I was with the devil. But God won. I held on to God's hand. At no point in time did I doubt that God would get me out of there."

The 33 miners could not be located for 17 days after the San Jose mine in Chile collapsed. When a drill broke through the rock to the miners' refuge, searchers felt someone tap back.

Following the breakthrough, the miners were given food, medicine and other supplies, including Scripture, through a 4-inch-wide tube as drillers tried to create an escape shaft.

The miners also sent letters up, notifying the public of their good condition and of their hope.

"There are actually 34 of us because God has never left us down here," Jimmy Sanchez, 19, wrote Tuesday, according to Time magazine.

Others working on the rescue effort also acknowledged divine intervention.

"It was 75 per cent engineering and 25 per cent a miracle," topographer Macarena Valdes was quoted as saying by The Wall Street Journal.

Churches across Chile hosted prayer vigils until the final miner was rescued. Jose Henriquez, 55, one of the trapped miners, also led a prayer group from underground.

As the miners recover both physically and mentally from the nearly 10-week stint, Chilean President Pinera has announced that the 125-year-old San Jose mine will never open again and that the protection of workers is to be the focus of government concern.