The first of 33 trapped miners was scheduled to be pulled to safety in a capsule barely wider than a man’s shoulders last night as a two-month ordeal deep inside a Chilean mine draws to an end.

The men have spent 68 days in the hot, humid bowels of a gold and copper mine in Chile’s northern Atacama desert after an Aug. 5 collapse. They now face a claustrophobic journey to the surface in the specially made steel cages, equipped with oxygen masks and escape hatches in case they get stuck.

The miners will be hoisted out one at a time in a two-day operation. The capsule will travel at about 3 feet per second, or a casual walking pace, and speed to 10 feet per second if the miner being carried gets into trouble.

With Chileans anxiously following the rescue on television, President Sebastian Pinera asked for all churches in the South American nation to ring their bells in celebration when the first miner emerged from the shaft.

Nervous wives, children, parents and friends waited around 2,050 feet above the miners. Rescue teams plan­ned to start the rescue operation after 10 p.m.