After 70 days underground, Florenico Avalos became the first of the trapped Chilean miners rescued from the collapsed mine. Avalos appeared at 12:11 am to cheers and the faces of his wife, son, and Chilean president, Sebastian Pinera:
Avalos, the 31-year-old second-in-command of the miners, was chosen to be first out because he was in the best condition. When the capsule came out of the manhole-sized opening, and Avalos stepped out as bystanders cheered, clapped and broke into a chant of the country’s name — “Chi! Chi! Chi! Le! Le! Le!”
It should have been a moment of relief and joy for the Avalos family, but a couple hundred journalists did their best to ruin it:
Avalos’s father Alfonso, tears running down his face, said: “It’s a huge joy. I’m so happy!”
Finally, the media crowd dispersed.
Then, as Alfonso hugged his wife Maria Silva, things turned ugly.
Reporters pushed and shoved to be the first to interview them, pulling on the hair of those in the way, throwing punches and almost knocking others to the ground.
The family retreated, and a frightened-looking Maria angrily hit out at journalists close to her with the Chilean flag bunched in her hand.
But the media mob, five-deep, kept advancing, crushing furniture and finally toppling the family’s humble tent.
Two Chilean police officers watched from nearby but did not step in.
Other than a few reporters who caught Maria Silva’s right hook, the rescue process has remained injury-free. A capsule, built by Chilean Navy engineers, is retrieving the miners at a rate of about one per hour. If everything goes smoothly, all of the 33 miners should be back above ground by the end of tomorrow.
Here’s footage of Florenico Avalos reaching the surface: