TODAY   |  October 12, 2010

Chile rescuers, miners prepare for rescue

With anticipation in the air,navy medics prepare to descend into a Chilean mine to evaluate 33 trapped miners before they are lifted back above ground. TODAY’s Natalie Morales reports from Copiapo, Chile.

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This content comes from a Full-Text Transcript of the program.

MATT LAUER, co-host: But let's begin with what appears to be the imminent rescue of those trapped Chilean miners. TODAY national corespondent, Natalie Morel -- ales -- excuse me -- is in the town of Copiapo . Natalie , good morning to you.

NATALIE MORALES reporting: Good morning to you, Matt. Yeah, we are so excited here because by this time tomorrow morning we expect to have some pretty spectacular images of that rescue. Now, all systems are almost go here with every last detail now going through the final round of tests. Phoenix 1, one of the two rescue capsules, made it's all-important debut Monday as the rescue teams practiced lowering it into the mine shaft.

Mr. LAURENCE GOLBORNE (Chilean Minister of Mining): This test has been very successful, no stones neither dust that was liberated during this process. So we are pretty sure that the cage will behave properly. It has been designed...

MORALES: It got within less than 40 feet of the miners.

Mr. GOLBORNE: We didn't send it down because we can risk that somebody could jump in.

MORALES: The capsule will be pulled up by the winch, like a giant fishing rod, now also being installed. Anticipation is in the air with each practice flyover by the medical helicopters. Before the rescue begins, four rescue personnel, including two specially trained navy medics, will be sent down to evaluate the miners and assist in loading them in. In preparation, the 33 are all undergoing a final battery of stress tests. Do you feel confident that they're all going to pull through just beautifully?

Dr. JEAN ROMAGNOLI (Sports Medicine Specialist): Yeah. Yeah, I know my boys. I've been around them for the last month and a half and I know perfectly how well they will respond.

MORALES: To ensure that, their vital signs will be monitored the whole way up. The capsules are also outfitted with video and audio to allow them the ability to communicate all the way. While the journey to the surface is expected to take only 15 minutes each, after two months and more than 2200 feet below ground, it no doubt will be a physically and emotionally challenging ride. But all are reportedly very excited and in great condition.

Dr. ROMAGNOLI: That's against all odds that they have not any serious ailment. Now I'm truly believer in miracles.

MORALES: They've even received sunglasses to shield their eyes from the intense dessert sun after spending so much time in the dark. Once they're brought up, they'll again undergo medical tests in the triage area before finally being reunited with a small group of family. Now, that reunion with their family, that first reunion, is going to have to be short and sweet because from here they're going to each be helicoptered over to the Copiapo regional medical center , where they're going to be evaluated more thoroughly. Another interesting point, we are not going to be told the order of each of the miners coming up. The only way we'll know who's coming out is when they finally make it to the surface. Matt :

LAUER: Oh, Natalie , thank you very much , from Copiapo in Chile this morning. We appreciate it. We were just talking, that is a tight little capsule.

MEREDITH VIEIRA, co-host: Very tight.

LAUER: Twenty minutes the ride is.

VIEIRA: The ride -- I guess they're breathing oxygen the whole time. They got a mask on.

LAUER: I know they've been in tough, you know, situations and these conditions are not great...

VIEIRA: I know.