Joyous families end long vigil at Chile's "Camp Hope"

Thu Oct 14, 2010 4:43pm GMT

* Two-months of waiting and praying end with rescue

* Family, friends, president visit miners in hospital

By Terry Wade

COPIAPO, Chile, Oct 14 (Reuters) - Ending what many felt was a spiritual mission, the families of Chile's 33 rescued miners on Thursday packed up the tents they have lived in for the past two months and prepared for life outside the intense fellowship of "Camp Hope".

They descended on the barren land around the San Jose mine after it collapsed on Aug. 5, scared that all the miners were dead but refusing to give up. Many of the relatives are deeply religious and prayed almost around the clock for their men.

Now that the extraordinary rescue operation is over, they began gathering up their clothes, sheets, pots and plates on Thursday and headed off, leaving behind piles of trash and ragged signs with photos of the miners and messages of support.

Alfonso Avalos, whose only two sons Florencio and Renan were among those trapped for 69 days, sipped tea around a smoldering campfire not far from the rescue shaft where the men emerged in joyous scenes on Wednesday. [ID:nN14104048]

He was planning to drop by the hospital in the town of Copiapo later on Thursday to pick up his sons, and then make the long trek home to the south of Chile with nearly three dozen family members.

"We came here to get them and we want to go back home all together," he said.   Continued...

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