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Thirty-three miners in Chile are alive, awaiting rescue

SAN JOSE, Chile — Trapped a half-mile underground for 17 days, few people expected to see them alive again.

But at the edge of a probe pulled from the mine on Sunday, the unexpected: letters addressed to family stating that the 33 men were safe. Celebrations that erupted across the country continued into Monday, tempered by concern about the miners' long-term health.

In Santiago, motorists honked car horns and church bells tolled. Hundreds of people -- many gripped for weeks by the unfolding drama -- gathered in the city center to wave red, white and blue Chilean flags.

Despite the euphoria, the families of the miners know it will be a long time yet before they can be reunited with their loved ones. Mining Minister Laurence Golborne says it could take four months to drill another, wider hole, more than 2,000 feet to the refuge. That hole will then be used as the miners' escape route.

On Monday, Golborne said the miners told him that with the exception of a few stomach-ache complaints, all were in good health and very pleased to hear that family members were waiting for them. Food and water were dropped into the well and the men confirmed they received them, Golborne said.

Also Monday, psychiatrists were brought here to counsel miners and family members, who have endured the ups and downs of the protracted rescue effort. "We need to urgently establish what psychological situation they are in. They need to understand what we know up here at the surface, that it will take many weeks for them to reach the light," Health Minister Jaime Manalich told The Associated Press.

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