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First of Rescued Chile Miners Could be Released From Hospital

Rescued miner Juan Aguilar waves to the press as he arrives to the hospital in Copiapo, Chile, 14 Oct 2010

Rescued miner Juan Aguilar waves to the press as he arrives to the hospital in Copiapo, Chile, 14 Oct 2010

A top Chilean official says the healthiest of the 33 men rescued from a collapsed copper and gold mine could be released from the hospital Thursday.

Health Minister Jaime Manalich said the miners were taken to hospitals for observation. He said one miner was being treated for pneumonia but most were in good condition.

Many gifts

Worldwide coverage of the dramatic and complex rescue operation has made the miners international celebrities. There have been reports they have received job offers, and film and book deals are being considered, and that gifts have been sent by Apple computer chief Steven Jobs and international soccer teams.

President Sebastian Pinera, who was on site for the entire rescue near the town of Copiapo and greeted each man as he emerged, has invited the men to a reception at the presidential palace in the capital, Santiago.

Costly rescue

Chile government officials say the cost of the rescue operation was about $20 million.

Luis Urzua, the foreman on August 5 when the mine collapsed, was the last of the men brought to the surface late Wednesday. He is credited with keeping the men calm while rescuers more than a half-kilometer above scrambled to find out if there were any survivors and then how to get them out.

The last of six rescue workers, who descended into the mine to assist the rescue effort, surfaced after midnight local time, just over 24 hours after the first miner emerged.

The rescue operation riveted the country and millions of people around the world, who watched as the miners embraced their loved ones for the first time after the harrowing 10-week ordeal.

National pride

The effort was a source of national pride in Chile, with family, officials and rescuers at the site occasionally bursting into patriotic chants and songs. On Wednesday, President Pinera led a team of rescuers in a spirited and emotional singing of the national anthem.

Bolivian President Evo Morales was also on site to greet the only non-Chilean in the group, Bolivian miner Carlos Mamani.

The miners were trapped underground for 69 days - more than anyone on record.

Mr. Pinera hailed the rescue effort, saying the men were rescued with unity, faith, and hope. He said the rescue workers gave themselves completely to the mission. He also thanked the families for their unwavering faith and all Chileans for their solidarity and words of encouragement.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.

Timeline of the Chile Miners Ordeal