Return to Transcripts main page


No Easy Journey for Trapped Chilean Miners. After Rescue, Miners to be Medically Treated Like Astronauts Returning from Space. Chilean President Speaks Live from San Jose Mine. Rescue Set to Begin in Two Hours; Marijuana and Money

Aired October 12, 2010 - 16:00:00   ET


BECKY ANDERSON, HOST: For 68 days, their survival has been a tale of true grit. Well, now their freedom could be just hours away. One by one, each of the 33 miners trapped underground in Chile will be brought to the surface. The mission to reach them has been painstaking. It's the story that's captivated audiences across the globe. Tonight, we'll look at the dangers in the hours ahead and what lies in store for the miners after the rescue.

Going beyond borders on the day's biggest stories, on CNN, this is the hour we connect the world.

Well, the operation to transport the miners through more than half a mile of solid rock won't be easy. But rescuers are determined to bring all 33 men back to their loved ones.

I'm Becky Anderson in London.

Also on the show tonight, as California debates whether to legalize cannabis, could moves in the opposite direction be underway in Amsterdam?

And fairground rides, fast food and mobile phones -- no, it's not America, but North Korea, as we continue our sneak peek inside the world's most secretive country. And do remember, you can now find us on Facebook. Just head to to hook up with the team and see what we are up to.

Well, first up this evening, Chilean officials say they hope to end the day with at least one miner back safely above ground. That news adding to the excitement outside the mine, where any time now, a steel rescue cage could begin its long descent.

Let's get straight to the mine for you and the latest from Karl Penhaul at the San Jose Mine. As the tension mounts, what's the time frame here -- Karl?

KARL PENHAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I just wanted to show you, first, the scene on the ground here at Camp Hope, close to the entrance of the mine. And this is where the families have been staying. This is also where the media have now gathered -- 1,500 journalists from 300 different media outlets from 39 different countries. Certainly no underestimation that the eyes of the world are watching what unfolds here.

We haven't got a specific time, but we do know now that the president, Sebastian Pinera, is there on site. He's been up at the mine site, checking out the -- the extraction point and checking that all the parts of the operation are in place now. And from what we've heard from the mines minister, Laurence Golborne, all systems are go.

We are expecting that any time after 6:00 local time -- so any time within the next two or three hours -- that this rescue operation could finally start. It is going to be a long process to get all 33 out. It could take 33 hours to 48 hours.

But what the mines minister said is that he hopes to have the first miner back on the surface before midnight -- Becky.

ANDERSON: All right. Let's get through the details then here, Karl, as you know them.

How long will it take to get each miner to the surface?

PENHAUL: Just a straight shot. So when the miner climbs in the cage and once he's been rigged up and fixed in, then it may take no more than (AUDIO GAP).

ANDERSON: All right, we seem to have lost our connection there.

you're looking at pictures live from that site of the mine. And testing the facilities, of course, as they get ready to send that shaft -- that cage down into the shaft -- down to the bottom, where, as Karl was suggesting, by midnight tonight local time, they are hoping to get the first of those miners to the surface -- 33 men who, of course, are down below -- some 700 feet below the surface.

And you're looking here at the Phoenix rescue capsule. Just a sense of what this rescue is about. They're going to send that cage down, take each of these members -- we don't know in which order at this stage. And we'll try and get Karl back for you to take us through the details as he know them.

At this stage, we don't know in what order these men will come up. There are varying ages and varying health conditions, as well.

I wonder if we can get Karl back.

Let me see -- Karl, are you with us again?

No, we haven't got him at the moment. But as I say, live pictures here from the mine, as we wait for the beginning of -- for this rescue.

Let's move on through the show and we'll get you some more information as to how this is a connective story around the world, as the families watch and wait. The world, of course, watches with them. Some journalists, in fact, calling this the global human interest story of the year.

Consider the media frenzy -- 1,300 journalists, as Karl said, have converged at the scene, according to Karl and those who are there. They represent more than 200 foreign media outlets and 50 Chilean ones and reportedly coming from about 33 countries in all on five continents.

Now, putting this into perspective, "The New York Times" says more media outlets are covering the fate of the miners than reported on February's earthquake in Chile, killing hundreds of people, of course. The quake was one of the most powerful ever recorded. And it's not just traditional media following every twist and turn of the miners' fate, but social media, as well. Many people are using Twitter to share their thoughts and send good wishes.

A sampling of those comments for you.

Julio in Santiago, in Chile, is full of anticipation, writing: "In a few hours, the trapped Chilean miners will emerge from the bowlers of the earth."

Suraya in Los Angeles says: "Congrats to the Chilean rescue. Amazing. But did I hear it right -- spouses and mistresses will greet them?"

Angela in Aberdeen in Scotland, meanwhile, says she has "butterflies in my tummy" for the miners.

And from Peju in Lagos in Nigeria: "My message to them is to remain calm and expect to see the light at the end of the tunnel real soon."

We're also hearing directly from our viewers. Here's Claudia in Santiago for you.


CLAUDIA: This has brought the whole country together. That's really something amazing for us. This really, really proves that our Chilean people get together when -- when the necessity comes. They are the heroes here from the day one. They kept it together until they were found. And they were very, very well organized. I mean it -- it's really amazing. It's -- it's just, I think, personally, it's a miracle.


ANDERSON: Yes. And you can get in touch with us. Our Facebook page -- new Facebook page, if you're not signed up as a friend of the show, pull up your cells -- -- cnnconnect, sorry, and share your thoughts about the Chilean mine rescue.

Let's go back to the San Jose Mine, where Karl Penhaul is on the phone line for you.

We're talking about the details of this rescue -- Karl, take us through it again.

We were talking about just how long it's going to take to get each miner to the surface.

PENHAUL: Yes, exactly. I mean the speed of that Phoenix rescue capsule can move about a meter a second. It means that once the miner is aboard, then he could be up on the surface in anything between 10 to 15 minutes. But as they drop that capsule down, well, that's going to go down under -- under gravity. So it's going to take a lot longer to get down, possibly about half an hour to drop from the surface down to the mine.

So all in all, adding it up, about one hour per miner from slash to bang. And as they come up there on the surface, there will be an alarm bell that rings out -- a siren. And -- and a light will flash. And that will signal miner on the surface. And that will be their signal for the doctors, for the paramedics, for the psychologists to go into operation and to get that miner a few hundred yards up to the field hospice -- hospital - - for his first prelon -- preliminary checks in a clinic there -- Becky.

ANDERSON: What's the atmosphere like on the surface at this point?

PENHAUL: It's a -- it's a mix. A lot of these families -- families that we've known over the last seven weeks that we've been here -- say, yes, we're happy. But yet we're stressed, we're nervous. And some of them just throw their hands up and say I'm feeling so many things, that there isn't a word to describe it.

Some of these women here -- some of the wives, over the last few days, have been coming down sick with what they say the doctors have pres -- have prescribed as stress-related illnesses. And one of -- one of the miners' wives today said, you know, I put in a call to one of my friends down in the nearest town and I hope she comes with a couple of pills later on, but says, you know, I really do need something to calm my nerves.

And throughout the whole seven weeks that I've been here, at least, I really haven't seen the relatives in this kind of state. It really is a mix of emotions that they themselves can't find the words to describe it -- Becky.

ANDERSON: Yes, this is remark stuff.

We're going to get back to you in about 20, 25 minutes time.

For the time being, Karl, we thank you very much, indeed for that, as we look at pictures coming to us from the San Jose Mine in Chile.

Imagine now what it must be like for those miners, emerging from months of isolation in a dark cave right into the glare of the media spotlight.

Well, our next guest says that shock is almost bigger than the shock of being trapped underground.

Jeff Goodell is author of "Our Story: 77 Hours Underground" in the camp of men trapped in a Pennsylvania coal mine.

And he joins us now from Saratoga Springs in New York, just a few hours' drive north of New York City.

The story that you told, Jeff, was one of men trapped deep underground for 77 hours. The story plying out in Chile, of course, is one of nearly 70 days.

Will these miners be anything like prepared for what happens next?

JEFF GOODELL, AUTHOR, "OUR STORY: 77 HOURS UNDERGROUND": Well, you know, they -- they -- miners are, you know, the -- the ordeal they've gone -- gone through underground is something they're, in a certain way, prepared for. You know, they work underground in this mine all of the time. These survival skills that we've been reading about, these are things that they're, you know, quite capable of doing and is part of, you know, their world.

What they're going to emerge out into in a few hours here is nothing like anything that they have ever experienced before. You have to remember that they're underground there. They don't know about this big media frenzy above ground. They don't know about the TV cameras. They don't know about the lights that are going to be greeting them.

And, you know, if what happened in Pennsylvania is any indication, you know, there is going to be, you know, a few hours, a few days of incredible euphoria and then when that wears off, it's going to be a -- a very traumatic re-entry into this new world.

ANDERSON: Yes, let's talk about after the glare of the media spotlight fades.

What would you expect?

GOODELL: Well, you know, what -- one of the things that we saw happen in Pennsylvania after this was, you know, there is a -- after this period of -- of euphoria and, you know, these miners ended up being, you know, flown to the White House and were, you know, hobnobbing with billionaires and on TV every day. And when that faded, you know, there became jealousy. There became, you know, fighting about who really did what and -- and why someone was being called and someone else wasn't.

In the months following the rescue, several of the miners suffered Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. There was family problems. And in one case, one of the rescuers actually ended up committing suicide, actually, because of the stresses of -- of the whole event.

ANDERSON: What most impressed you about the men that you wrote about?

GOODELL: Well, I mean their incredible resiliency of what they went through underground, their incredible brotherhood, all things that, you know, we've been talking about here and during this rescue. I mean what they are able to -- their -- the strengths of these men in what they've gone through and being able to keep it together in this incredibly difficult situation is really heroic.

But, you know, I -- I think that what I saw after the Pennsylvania mining accident was that the guys who did best who -- after they emerged were the ones who basically went back to work and -- and did as much as they could to ignore the media spotlight and to focus on their families and not let it get carried away.

ANDERSON: Jeff, we appreciate your thoughts this evening.

We thank you very much, indeed, for joining us here on CONNECT THE WORLD.

Sixty-eight days now. Their freedom could be just hours away.

You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD on CNN live from London.

I'm Becky Anderson.

More on this story as we move through the hour. Also coming up for you this e voting, California considering legalizing it, while the Netherlands could tighten up its act -- how the marijuana debate is hotting up around the world.

Plus, all eyes, of course, on Chile, as the first of 33 trapped miners gets ready to taste freedom.


ANDERSON: All right. Rescue workers preparing to winch 33 miners trapped deep underground in Northern Chile to safety in what will be a dramatic finale to an ordeal that has gripped the world. We're just hours away, we hope, from seeing the 32 Chileans and one Bolivian who have been stuck in the collapsed San Jose Mine since August the 5th. It's 68 days. It's hoped that they will squeeze into a narrow capsule for what will be a fairly nerve-wracking 20 minutes or so journey, equivalent to taking a lift, I'm told, up from 200 floors back, of course, to the families that they left behind and the new life -- at least to begin with, as celebrities.

Hundreds of journalists gathered at the top of this mine shaft. Those miners, as they get to the surface, will be triaged and then whisked away by helicopter to a clinic where their health will be assessed. And after that, of course, they will get to see their families.

Stick with CNN. We'll give you live updates. Of course, we'll be on this story as and when we begin to see it happen. It's an important one. As I say, it's nearly 70 days those miners have been stuck some 700 foot below ground. Quite remarkable stuff. And we may, we hope, now just be hours away from the end.

Back with that, as we move through this hour and through the hours ahead here on CNN.

Cannabis, pot, weed -- whatever you call it, it's an issue that causes controversy.

Is cannabis a healing herb or a dangerous drug?

All this week, we're devoting special coverage to the marijuana debate here on the show.

On Monday, pot and politics in the U.S. -- we looked at Proposition 19 in California, which would pretty much legalize retail sales of the drug for recreational use. That is if voters go for it.

Well today, we turn to marijuana and money. In the city of Oakland, California, the sale of medical marijuana rakes in millions. If it's made legal, one study says that will directly impact the amount the drug traffickers pocket.

Ted Rowlands explains.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you looking for something particular?

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Oakland's Harborside Medical Marijuana Dispensary is the largest in California, grossing more than $21 million in sales last year.

STEVE DEANGELO, HARBORSIDE HEALTH CENTER: Our total tax payments last year were close to $3 million. That would include California sales tax, California income tax, U.S. federal income tax and the city of Oakland cannabis tax.

ROWLANDS: The city of Oakland has completely embraced the sale of medical marijuana, with few, if any, problems, according to officials.

DAVID MCPHERSON, OAKLAND REVENUE & TAX ADMINISTRATOR: Because of our partnership with them and trying to work with them instead of fighting them and looking at it, we look at this as an opportunity not only for people who have medical problems and a need, but also an industry that has something to offer to us, not only in -- financially, but to our community in providing jobs.

ROWLANDS (on camera): Last year, the city of Oakland made $60,000 in just permits for the four dispensaries. They also have a 1.8 percent tax.

Add to that regular sales tax and the city pulled in about $800,000 in revenue over the sale of medical marijuana.

But when you consider the overall budget in the city of Oakland is more than $400 million, it's not a lot of money.

BEAU KILMER, RAND DRUG POLICY RESEARCH CENTER: When you buy cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine or marijuana, part of what you're doing is compensating the drug dealer and everyone else along the supply chain for their risk of arrest and risk of incarceration. That goes away with legalization. We calculated that after legalization, we would expect the pre-tax price to drop by more than 80 percent.

ROWLANDS (voice-over): The city of Oakland still thinks it will make good money.

MCPHERSON: The medicinal side right now is about 20 percent of the total business out there. If the adult usage is 80 percent of that, that's about $80 million. So there's potential for significant financial growth for the city and for this community.

ARTURO SANCHEZ, SPECIAL BUSINESS PERMIT DIVISION: I do think that we have the right pieces in place to allow us to be, you know, a barrier breaking city. We're in the pole position, is what I could say. We're ahead of the pack.

ROWLANDS: While nobody knows what legalizing pot will do to California, it's a good bet that if it's legal, it will be for sale in Oakland.

Ted Rowlands, CNN, Oakland, California.


ANDERSON: OK. Well, while California is considering becoming more lenient when it comes to cannabis, the Netherlands seems to be moving the other way. Now that comes as a real surprise.


Well, because millions of people flock to the country's local coffee shops every year to buy cannabis over the counter. Now, just to be clear, technically, the sale of cannabis remains an offense in the Netherlands. But since 1976, the Narcotics Act there has distinguished between hard drugs and soft drugs. Coffee shops can sell pot or marijuana if they comply with a set of conditions. Now, customers must be aged 18 or over. The maximum that you can buy is five grams. And coffee shops aren't allowed to advertise.

But that could all change now, as the government considers tightening up its lenient approach, making the coffee shops members only and possibly even banning the sale of cannabis to foreigners.

Joining me now is Gerrit Bloemendal, a coffee shop owner and the vice chairman of the Netherlands Cannabis Platform.

Sir, this is a scheme, I know, that's been piloted in some parts of the country in what is an effort to crack down on -- on -- on crime and the problems associated with drugs.

And that's pretty hard to argue against, isn't it?


ANDERSON: But I know you do.

So what is your argument?

BLOEMENDAL: Well, the new proposals of the government are that the coffee shops should -- should be in a distance of 350 meters from a school and that we would decrease the number of coffee shops by, I think, 5 or 10 percent. The coffee shops do not have to close immediately, but have to relocate. And if they cannot relocate, then they have to close.

We had something like that in Rotterdam. There was a closing of 28 coffee shops by enforcing the 250 meters and the new government will now -- is now planning to make the 250 meters 350 meters.

ANDERSON: And with respect, I think it certainly addressed an issue, that is crime associated with the problem of drug abuse and particularly that of foreigners using coffee shops and creating, at times, havoc as a result.

And how will you and other coffee shop owners be affected if, indeed, this new legislation comes into place?

BLOEMENDAL: Well, in some parts of the Netherlands, there are not so many foreigners. So there -- there will be not much influence of our -- when -- when those are excluded. But in a city like Amsterdam, you can say about 40 percent of the people who buy in a coffee shop are -- are -- are from foreign countries. So that's the certain effect.

And in the south -- the southern part of the Netherlands, in -- in a city called Mospalake (ph), it may be about 80 percent of -- of the selling is to -- to foreigners.

ANDERSON: And is that a problem?

BLOEMENDAL: So there...

ANDERSON: Is that a problem, do you think?

BLOEMENDAL: I -- there -- the problem is, is that the shops are for - - for local people that -- that -- that is what they want. And there are no coffee shops in Belgium and in Germany and in France. And too many people come to the -- the shops. So there is a problem with traffic or -- or whatever. So the same rules like over 18 and five rems (ph), of course, now for the foreigners. But they're in -- there are too many in -- in some parts.

We have 16 municipalities who have coffee shops in the -- at the border. So it's not a real very big problem, because we have 106 municipalities who have coffee shops on the more than 30 municipalities that we have in the Netherlands. So it's -- I think it's not a very big problem, but in the problems in -- in the cities like Maastricht or we have a big coffee shop in -- in the province of Azalam. There -- there wasn't a big problem.

ANDERSON: OK. We're going to have to leave it there, sir.

We've got a -- a big breaking story in Chile.

We appreciate your thoughts.

Coffee shop owner Gerrit Bloemendal joining you on CONNECT THE WORLD this evening, part of a -- a theme week on the debate about -- around marijuana for you this evening.

Before we take a break, let me just get you back to the mine in Chile. We want to bring you the latest pictures we've got from there. We're just hours away, we hope, from the successful rescue of what will be the first of 33 miners. Rescue workers preparing to winch those miners trapped deep underground in Northern Chile to safety in what will be a dramatic finale to an oil -- ordeal that's gripped the world. And when I say it's gripped the world -- and we are literally talking about hundreds of journalists from around the world.

Full rescue workers, experts, I'm told, in mine rescues and paramedics, are going to descend what is nearly 700 meters in the escape tunnel into the pit of the capsule. The capsule, dubbed Phoenix. They're going to oversee the operation. And the most agile of the men, we're told, are selected so they can deal with emergencies and debrief rescuers at the surface, will be the first to travel up. We don't have the details of exactly who that will be, but in the hours to come here on CNN, you will see this operation in action.

The mine had a -- a poor safety record in the past. But we are hoping today to see what will be a dramatic finale to an ordeal, as I say, that has gripped the world.

You'll see it here on CNN.

Stick with us for more on this.

It's 27 minutes past 9:00 in London.

I'm Becky Anderson.


We're going to get you the news headlines after this.


ANDERSON: You're back with CONNECT THE WORLD here on CNN.

I'm Becky Anderson in London for you.

And a half past 9:00.

Just ahead, squeezed into the claustrophobic capsule and pulled up slowly through solid rock -- a small price to pay for freedom, perhaps. Still, no easy journey for those trapped Chilean miners.

Also, this half hour, we're going to meet your Connector of the Day, Tim Hetherington. He's braved some of the world's toughest corners as a photojournalist. Now he's made the jump to award-winning filmmaking. Your questions for him coming up.

And at play in Pyongyang -- we get a rare glimpse at how North Koreans spend their leisure time -- keeping in mind it's a glimpse the government wants us to see.

Those stories are ahead in the next 30 minutes.

First, as ever, at this point, let me give you a very quick check of the headlines this hour.

Well, the rescue of the San Jose Mine's 33 trapped miners could begin shortly. Chile's president is now at the site. On the way up, the miners will wear oxygen masks and medical monitors. Final preparations and tests are being carried out as we speak.

More than a million people went on strike in France on Tuesday, the largest demonstrations yet against the government's pension reform plan. About one in five regional trains were running. The unions object to raising the retirement age from 60 to 62.

A national day of mourning in Ukraine after a train slammed into a bus, killing at least 42 people. Railway officials say warning lights at the crossing were on, but they say the bus driver, who survived the impact, ignored them.

Hungarian crews are working as fast as they can to finish three new dams before a second wave of poisonous mud bursts from a ruptured industrial plant reservoir. Eight people died, dozens more were hurt, and hundreds of people were evacuated when the reservoir's walls gave way last week.

Let's get you back to our top story, one that's truly connecting, captivating the world right now, the rescue of those 33 trapped Chilean miners. Patrick Oppmann joins us from the regional hospital where the miners will be taken. And Patrick, what are the details as you know of them at that scene?

PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Becky. And this is where the miners will be sending -- spending at least several days after their freedom from this mine. No one has ever gone through the experience they've gone through, and officials want to check them out quite thoroughly.

They'll be brought here behind me to the Copiapo regional hospital where we're already seeing media presence build up. And we expect them to be brought in by helicopter, by military helicopter. There's a military base with a helicopter pad just down the street, so it's quite convenient for the government's needs here, for the miners' needs here.

We're expecting them to be brought in four at a time by helicopter with officials, with rescue workers. More of their family members will be able to meet them here, and they'll be brought into the hospital to be give a full check-over.

Remember, Becky, that there's going to be a field hospital at the mine site, where they'll be given an initial checkup, but here's really where they'll be checked from their heart to their eyesight. Of course, their vision could have been very -- full -- very badly damaged while they're underneath the Earth's surface for 60 days, now, so doctors wanted to get close up to their eyes, give them a full checkup. And even though the miners could leave here at anytime, doctors are going to really insist they stay here for at least several days.

So, over the next hours and definitely next days, we'll be seeing these helicopters coming in, bringing these miners here for their first stop after they're finally released from the mine. Becky?

ANDERSON: This is a regional hospital. Just how well-prepared are they for the sort of health conditions that they could possibly get as these miners arrive?

OPPMANN: If there's been some luck involved in this story, this is one of those signs of the luck the miners have had because this hospital was put on alert August 5th. When they heard there was a mine disaster, they expected injured miners to be brought in. They started making preparations, bringing in equipment, think that they were going to have a number of injured miners to triage.

Of course, that didn't happen. They brought in -- they haven't seen any miners yet, so they've had more than two months, now, to prepare for this. And they realized that the miners were coming, they'd have specific problems. And, of course, doctors are talking to these miners every day. They know more or less what problems they will be suffering from.

So that's been very lucky for this hospital here. They've brought in equipment, they've modernized, they've upgraded, and they say they are very much read for these miners and to deal with any issues that they might have, Becky.

ANDERSON: Patrick Oppmann at the regional hospital where the miners will be flown after they get to the surface of that shaft, as you've heard. Thanks Patrick. The ride to freedom won't be easy, but have you actually seen those claustrophobic rescue cages up close.

We constructed a mock capsule here at CNN, and Jon Mann stepped inside. Take a look at this.


JONATHAN MANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): As we've been telling you, there are three Phoenix capsules on the ground in Copiapo, Chile. But we thought we'd build one of our own to just give you a sense of how tight a fit it's going to be.

This, of course, is made out of wood. It's much flimsier than the -- I think it's 13-foot-long capsules that are built out of metal with the help of NASA designers.

If you get it, you get a sense of just how tight this is. It's about as comfortable as a coffin. Close the doors and you feel like you're in, well, some kind of really bad telephone booth. The difference is, though, I can see out to the light of day. It's not claustrophobic, but a man moving though 620 meters of rock is going to see just, basically, rock and danger and darkness in every direction.

The men are going to have audio contact with the surface, they're going to have video contact with the surface. They're going to have oxygen. But some experts said at the outset it might be a good idea to sedate the men because they considered the journey so nerve-wracking. That was a bad idea, apparently, according to experts, because they need the men to be aware. They need the men to be able to escape though an escape hatch if there's a problem along the way.

But there were some other concerns as well, unrelated to any danger outside the capsule, and that is the capsule itself. It is so small that, really, once you're in here, your shoulders are, essentially, locked. There's not a lot of movement possible.

But the key problem, in many respects, is not the shoulders, it's the legs. Even a soldier standing on a parade ground long enough with legs locked can pass out because of lack of circulation in the lower half of the body. Now, if you're on a parade ground and you fall over, what happens? Your legs stretch out, the circulation is naturally restored.

If you're in a capsule so small that there's no falling over, the concern was that the men would pass out and stay standing up because there's nowhere for their legs to go. In that situation, the capsule itself could proved deadly to the men, so leg room was a crucial issue. There's enough of it, apparently, in here. One presumes there's enough of it in the Phoenix capsules.

But that just gives you a sense of what these men are going through, the kinds of risks that the journey represents, that the capsule represents on what will be, quite literally, the ride of their lives.


ANDERSON: For you, remarkable stuff. So every precaution is taken to get those miners safely back to the surface, but even then, the risks to their health won't suddenly disappear. Our next guest says doctors will treat the miners the same way that they would treat returning astronauts.

Mark Morocco is a doctor himself, an associate residency, director and associate professor at UCLA Emergency Medicine in Los Angeles. What sort of shape do you reckon these guys are going to be in, Mark?

MARK MOROCCO, DOCTOR, UCLA EMERGENCY MEDICINE: Well, Becky, thanks for having us on today. This is an amazing story of a return from inner space. And if the metaphor is Mother Earth, than these gentlemen have been gestating in that womb for a long time, connected by an umbilical cord to life. And they're about to be reborn into a life that is drastically different than the life they left behind.

Medically, I think they're going to be in pretty good shape. The thing that they had going for them from the very beginning is that after the initial collapse of the mine, once they were discovered, clean water, good air, an exercise regimen, a very specific caloric food supply was supplied to them, as well as medications for any chronic medical conditions. I understand one of the miners has diabetes, one of the miners has hypertension. They've been under a lot of sort of scrutiny, the same way, as you said --


MOROCCO: And it's a terrific simile, this is a lot like an astronaut in space. And so I think medically, in terms of their physical problems, they're going to come out of their just fine, provided that the extrication and the rescue goes without hitch.

ANDERSON: Sure. And as we talk, Mark, I'm just taking a look to see what the viewer is seeing here. They're seeing the Chilean president, who is talking to the media. As soon as we get some translation on that, we will bring that to the viewers. You and I will continue to speak, though.

I want you talk us through just how dangerous this capsule ride really will be. I was talking to somebody earlier today who drew the analogy with a scuba diver, when you come up too quickly, you get this sort of sense of -- and a very bad medical condition it can be -- of the bends. So talk us through the problems that they might encounter in that capsule if it doesn't work the way that rescuers hope it might, or hope it will.

MOROCCO: The biggest problem that you can have, if the rescue works without collapse of the tube or the capsule getting stuck, or some other disaster like that, would be a problem that would have to do with panic. These gentlemen have been working in confined spaces --

ANDERSON: Hold your thought.

MOROCCO: They're tougher than most of us are ever going to be --

ANDERSON: Hold your thought for one second. Let's get to the Chilean president and we'll come back to you as we now have some translation, I believe. Let's get to that.

SEBASTIAN PINERA, PRESIDENT OF CHILE (though translator): To look for them until we find them, and we have done it. The 22nd of August, we were able to make contact with the miners and to learn that all 33 were alive. And not only alive, but they were united, strong, fighting for their lives.

We were committed to do everything humanly possible to rescue them. And I hope that in one hour, Chileans will be able to say that we have fulfilled our commitment. And I feel that faith has moved mountains. Because it has been the faith of miners, their faith, their strength, their courage, their will, of all of those 33 miners, of their family members, of the Chilean government and all Chileans.

This is what has made possible this miracle. And I feel that our country, which has been so battered by adversity, a country that has had two of the five worst earthquakes in the history of humanity, the last one just a few months back. A country that has made itself, in spite of adversity, has proven again -- has proven itself again with this tragedy.

When we are hit by adversity, the real soul of our country comes out. And we hope that in a little over two hours, we will start that for which we have prepared for such a long time, with so much effort, with so much sacrifice. Because hundreds of thousands of people have worked to get to this point.

And we also hope that with God's help, we'll be able to finish this saga with good result, and that some of the families that have waited so long, before the end of this day, even before the sun sets, will be able to hug their husbands, fathers, children, brothers, who are trapped 700 meters below the ground.

I want to finish by saying that the miners are going to be the same when they come out from the guts of the Earth. The same as they were before they were trapped. And the Chileans who are going to receive them, we're not going to be the same people. We have learned a lesson. We have learned a lesson, that is, learned the hard way by facing adversity that with unity, faith, will, and courage, and with the help of God, we are capable of doing great things.

After this challenge of rescuing our 33 miners, we will have other challenges. Other challenges that we hope to be able to face with the same unity, strength, and courage with which we have faced the earthquake and the rescue of our miners.

And those challenges are to defeat poverty, underdevelopment, and to create a society with security for all that guarantees a bottom line, and that gives the same opportunity to all, which means that all who want to make an effort, can fully develop. That is the challenge that Chileans have ahead of us.

I really have tremendous gratitude for the solidarity that we have found in the rest of the world. Because we have knocked on every door, we have made all the efforts, we have received the help of many friendly countries. And we have received the simulation that love, the faith of millions and millions of men and women throughout the world.

As the president of Chile, I would like to thank all those millions of people, because even if it's just a prayer, a smile, that has given us greater strength and greater faith in order to face these 69 days, which have been very difficult moments with a lot of sadness, anxiety, and then later, hope.

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. Thank you very much.

ANDERSON: President speaking to you there from the San Jose Mine. It is the beginning of the end for the 33 Chilean miners who are stuck some 700 meters below the ground. He says in less than two hours from now, the process will begin to winch those miners to the surface.

He says, "Tears of happiness will be shed in Chilean households and all over the world" as these miners are winched to safety in what will be a dramatic finale to 68 days of pretty grueling time for these guys stuck below the ground there. And we are just seeing pictures of them, of course. Bringing you all of this on CNN as and when it happens.

I've got Dr. Mark Morocco with me from the emergency department at UCLA. We were talking about just how dangerous this capsule ride will be. And, indeed, the helicopter ride that will happen subsequent to these miners getting to the top of this shaft. Just talk us through the details again.

MOROCCO: Well, the thing that's most interesting about this is this has never been done before. And as you and I remember from the problems that we had during the BP oil spill, and even going back to the space shots during the 60s and 70s, even the most carefully planned and engineered, highly technological processes can sometimes be fraught with disaster.

We certainly hope these miners will be returned safely to their families, but this has never been done before. The last time we had an extrication like this was here in the United States near my home town in western Pennsylvania, where the Quecreek Mine disaster happened. Those miners were brought up a total of 200 feet. These miners are coming about ten times that distance. Those miners were underground for about 72 hours, these gentlemen have been underground for three -- almost three months.

So this is really unprecedented. And statistically, the things that miners really fear, they fear a collapse. These guys have done that. Airline pilots fear crashes, sea captains fear sinking their ships. These guys have been through the most stressful psychic stress that they can have.

Once they come to the surface, they're no longer going to be simple Chilean miners. They're going to be under a lot of pressure and a lot of stress from outside forces.


MOROCCO: They can suffer from depression, they can suffer from post- traumatic stress disorder. A lot of problems that are going to be ongoing once they're returned to their families.

ANDERSON: Mark Morocco speaking to you from UCLA. Let's get back to the Chilean mine. Mark, we thank you for that. The Chilean president taking questions from some of the hundreds of journalists who are there at the site. Let's listen in.

PINERA (though translator): Bolivian miner also. And President Morales wants to be there for his -- one of his citizens. The rescue is going to last between 24 and 48 hours, depending on the speed with which the miners can get on the capsule, on the cage. How long it takes for the cage to be lifted up.

Tonight, the rescue operation is going to start, and we're hoping that the 33 miners will be all on the surface by Thursday.

We have the best men and women who are in charge of this operation. One of our main concerns from day one was to look for the best technology, the best machines, but also the best people.

I remember that Monday, right after the accident, as Chile's president, I needed to accompany Andres Sougarret, who had been selected by us the previous Sunday to head this effort, the rescue effort. And we came here together after talking on Sunday. Three days after the accident, he took over the technical direction of this process, and his work has been really tremendous.

I also want to congratulate Minister Laurence Golborne have been in charge of -- and also, Minister Jaime Manalich, who have been in charge of keeping the miners safe. Also, Christian Barra, also congress people that have participated in this and are here with us. Really, we've had thousands of people that have helped those in charge of the drilling machines. They have taken care of the food or the buses or they have been in charge of the family members in the camps.

I also want to thank with tremendous satisfaction is the police force in Chile, which has done a tremendous job in the rescue operation.

For over 60 days, there's a task force that has to present the report next week, and they're going over our legislation, our regulations, our standards, our practices so that we can use this event to jump forward, so that our workers can work with greater security, where their lives and physical integrity is better protected.

And I hope that there will be a big change in the security and the dignity in which our workers work. Because development is not simply to accumulate wealth. It also means to treat workers in Chile with dignity.

PINERA (in English): It has been a very long journey, 69 days, in which not only the miners, their families, but also all the Chileans have suffered doubts, anguish, especially in the first 17 days, when we didn't know whether they were alive or dead. We didn't know where they were.

But finally, on Sunday, August the 22nd, we had the magnificent news that they were alive. All of them alive. Since then, we have done our best efforts to rescue them. And I hope that today, tonight, this long journey will end with a very happy ending. This story, that started as a possible tragedy, I hope it will end as a real blessing.

I'm sure that the miners will not be the same people that they were before this accident. And the Chilean people will not be the same people. We have learned from adversity. We have learned from this accident that unity, faith, hope, courage, can achieve all the goals that we can set for our camps.

And after we rescue our 33 miners, we will have to face other challenges. We hope that Chile will be the first Latin American country -- and I say this humbly, but also proudly -- that we hope that we will be the first Latin American country, before the end of this decade, that will be able to say that we have defeated poverty, we have defeated underdevelopment, and we have created a society full of freedom, opportunities, and justice for all the sons of this land.

ANDERSON: You've been listening to the Chilean president, who is on site at the San Jose Mine as the dramatic finale for those 33 miners trapped underground for the last 68 days comes to a conclusion.

Being told by the Chilean president in the last couple of minutes that we are just two hours away, now, from the start of the rescue, winching these guys that you're seeing here on your screens deep below the surface through some half mile of solid rock, bringing them to the surface.

It takes, like, 20 minutes for each of these guys, we hope, to get to the surface. They'll be triaged there and then flown by helicopter to a regional hospital, where they will stay and have their medical conditions assessed there. Then, they'll be reunited with their families.

We've got correspondents on the ground for you, as you can imagine, covering this story from every angle. We're going to get back to Gary Tuchman on site after this very short break. Do stay with us, 90 seconds away.


ANDERSON: You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD. Anytime now, we're expecting the rescue to begin for 33 men trapped deep underground in the San Jose Mine in Chile. We've just heard from the Chilean president, let's get to the site and to Gary Tuchman. He's standing by. What do we hear from the president, Gary?

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Becky, this is our first opportunity to actually see the site where the men will come up firsthand. For the entire period that we've been here, they haven't allowed the press this close. Now we are, and that yellow arch, that's where the men will come up. It actually looks like a sewer cap in the ground. And that's where they hope within the next 24 to 36 hours that all 33 men safely arrive on Earth.

Now, we are being told some timing information. This isn't set in stone, but we're being told by a high-ranking source with the Chilean police that in about one hour, they will send a paramedic and a mine rescuer down the cylinder, one at a time, to meet and greet the 33 miners, to make sure they're OK, to make sure everything is set.

And then, in about two hours from now -- and that's an estimate, but that's what the plan is right now. Two hours from now, they will send the first miner up the cylinder. The cylinder ride will take 16 to 17 minutes to go all the way up.

If you do the math, they can do it all in ten hours, but it's not expected to go that long -- it's not expected to be that short. The reason is, they don't want to necessarily do this during daylight hours. These men have not seen any daylight for almost seven weeks. Therefore, they will do it in the overnight hours tonight. When it gets light tomorrow, they may suspend it for a little while, then continue it again tomorrow evening.

Everything's up in the air right now. Literally. There'll be helicopters up in the air, because after they land and greet their family members, each and every one of the 33 miners will be taken on a helicopter ride to a nearby hospital for an examination.

We've never seen anything like this before, so many men underground for so long. The pictures promise to be exhilarating. Becky?

ANDERSON: Yes, Gary Tuchman on site, as are the rest of our teams there in Chile. Let's get your thoughts now on this story with just a couple of hours away, as Gary says, from what we hope will be the first of those 33 miners being winched to safety.

Jamolloy has a bit of a sense of humor about all of this. He writes to us saying, "These miners are going to be getting some massive checks for all this time-and-a-half."

HardLogic writes, "This is great news. Let's hope they are still sane and can lead normal lives after what has been an ordeal."

Another viewer says, "I think the bigger issue is that they will now have to deal with being celebrities and all the media attention that will come with that." We've been discussing that in the past hour.

AgathaM agrees. "They're going to be inundated with money, book, movie offers." She says, "It will be easy to take advantage of them, but they are not integrating into the society they know, but a whole new society."

Going to take a very short break. Your headlines after this.