Trapped Australian Miners Get IPods
Wednesday, May 3, 2006; 1:10 AM
BEACONSFIELD, Australia -- Two Australian miners trapped for more than a week in a tiny cage more than a half mile underground were given iPods Wednesday to help them while away the hours as rescuers prepared to start drilling them an escape tunnel.
Brant Webb, 37, and Todd Russell, 34, were trapped April 25 in a Tasmania gold mine by a cave-in that killed another miner following a small earthquake. The two miners apparently were saved by a slab of rock that fell onto the cage of the cherry-picker they were working in.
Rescuers were to start boring toward them later Wednesday when eight truckloads of concrete that is being used to anchor a huge drill has dried. Drilling is expected to take two days.
Rescuers had been using explosives to blast a tunnel toward the miners but stopped late Monday, fearing they could trigger another cave-in. They then managed to reach the pair with a narrow pipe to pump through the first fresh water and food the miners had received since becoming trapped.
Both men "remain in good health and have now received iPods so they can listen to their favorite music," said Matthew Gill, manager of the century-old Beaconsfield Gold Mine.
The miners' families had also sent notes and drawings from their children through the tube _ "just something to keep the spirits up, just to let them know that everyone's waiting for dad to come home," said Australian Workers' Union national secretary Bill Shorten.
Shorten said he believes Webb's family sent down deodorant and toothpaste, as well.
The drill being prepared by rescuers will grind a 3-foot-wide escape tunnel through 40 feet of collapsed rock that is trapping the men within their cramped safety cage.
Before the rescuers reached them with the tube on Monday, the men had been getting by on rancid water that dripped through the rocks. Enough oxygen also got through to keep them alive.
Two paramedics were in the mine monitoring the trapped miners' psychological and nutritional needs, Tasmania Ambulance Service Supt. Wolfgang Rechberger said Wednesday.
"They're doing remarkably well at the moment, we're very pleased with the condition that they're in," Rechberger told Channel Nine television.
Beaconsfield mayor Barry Easther said the tight-knit mining community was coming to terms with the frustration of rescue delays.
"People are going about their normal routine, I think, confident these two boys are going to be retrieved safely and in good condition," he said. "There is still a little bit of anxiety there because they recognize the very serious nature of this final 12 meters (40 feet)."