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Page last updated at 02:10 GMT, Tuesday, 9 May 2006 03:10 UK

Joy at Australian miners' rescue

Cheering crowds have celebrated the emergence of two Australian miners who spent two weeks trapped underground by fallen rocks.

Todd Russell hugs family and friends outside the mine
Delighted crowds greeted the rescued men in Beaconsfield

Brant Webb and Todd Russell appeared at the mines' gates in the early hours of Tuesday morning, laughing, waving and shaking hands with rescuers and well-wishers.

They punched the air, embraced family members and removed their identity tags from a wall next to the elevator shaft - a routine gesture that, in this case, signified the end of a very long shift.

Residents of the Tasmanian town of Beaconsfield and media crews watched as the men - still wearing uniform fluorescent jackets and helmets - were then driven to a hospital for medical tests.

Local mayor Barry Easther told the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper the scenes outside the mine were more like a "parade than an ambulance trip to the general hospital".

'Australian mateship'

A Beaconsfield resident told the newspaper she had woken up her children so that they could witness the end of the miners' ordeal.

This is the biggest escape from the biggest prison we have, the planet
Bill Shorten
Union leader

"We all threw on clothes and got in the car and came up," the woman, named only as Laurette, said. "I think they should block off the streets and throw the town open.''

The mine's siren was sounded to signal that the rescue effort had succeeded and a church bell - not used since the end of World War II - rang out in celebration.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the ancient, rusting bell fell apart not long afterwards.

The miners' robust good-humour and the tenacity of their rescuers has been attracting praise, with Prime Minister John Howard speaking of "a wonderful demonstration of Australian mateship and perseverance".

Mine manager Matthew Gill said he was "amazed at their condition".

"My knees are shaking and I haven't quite worked out where I am at the minute," he said.

The leader of the Australian Workers Union, Bill Shorten, said: "This is the great escape. This is the biggest escape from the biggest prison we have, the planet."

Speaking to rescuers during his long confinement, Mr Russell said he was looking forward to a fast-food meal as soon as he emerged from the mine.

Beaconsfield's relief at the men's rescue is tempered by sadness at the death of their colleague, Larry Knight, who died in the initial rockfall.

Mr Knight's funeral is to be held on Tuesday.



SEE ALSO
Trapped Australian miners rescued
08 May 06 |  Asia-Pacific
In pictures: Miners' rescue
08 May 06 |  In Pictures
Rescuers inch to Tasmania miners
04 May 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Delays in Tasmanian mine rescue
03 May 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Race on to rescue Tasmania miners
01 May 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Trapped Tasmanian miners get food
01 May 06 |  Asia-Pacific


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