Chilean Miners; Living Miracles
By: Heather Hines
On August 22, 2010, after an intense and mentally draining wait, all of Chile was in high spirits. This reaction came after receiving information that thirty three miners, who had been trapped underground for seventeen days, were alive. One minute the miners were hard at work and the next minute they were trapped 2300 ft. underground. Finally family and friends of those who had been trapped could breathe a little easier. The miners were alive. But there was one big problem. The men had survived the explosion and being buried alive, but they were still trapped nearly a half of a mile under the earth’s surface. The rescue team had to find a way to rescue the men as soon as possible, but they couldn’t compromise the men’s safety. In the meantime, they would have to get water and food to sustain the men, as well as keep them occupied for the long wait ahead.
According to World News Digest, “The men in early August had become trapped by fallen rock after a build-up of methane gas had exploded in the mine, near the northern city of Capiapo. Rescue teams had feared that they were dead” (“Chile”).
“Mine officials and relatives of the workers had hoped the men reached a shelter inside the mine when the tunnel collapsed in the San Jose gold and copper mine about 530 miles north of the capital, Santiago. They said the shelter’s emergency air and food supplies would only last forty eight hours” (Quilodran).
... almost 24 hours later the last trapped miner was brought to safety. The entire group of rescued miners underwent medical and psychological evaluations; within ... of given hope to the families that the collapse mine victims’ were all alive and well. This is when all involved began ... of what is known as paloma, everything needed by the men below could be sent. Clothing, food, water, medicine, and sleeping ...
Desperately, rescuers tried to reach the men below, but failed seven times. They blamed the errors to reach the shelter, on the mine’s maps. On that first Sunday morning, the rescuers tried an eighth time. When they drilled down they heard the sounds of hammers. They sent down a probe and it came back up with two notes contained in a plastic bag. This gave hope to the friends and family that had gathered outside the mine, in what they called, Camp Hope.
The opening the rescuers had drilled was not big enough to rescue the miners through. Instead they used the tunnel to send small capsules of food, meds, water, oxygen, and sound/video equipment, so they could communicate with the outside world, to the miners. The rescuers determined they needed to dig a twenty-seven inch tunnel for the miners to be rescued (Quilodran).
According to Christian Science Monitor, “The joy that everyone was expressing quickly turned to concern as it became clear that it could take months, perhaps even until Christmas, to rescue the men. The rescuers plotted to dig two more shafts, one for ventilation and one to extract the men one by one” (Bodzin).
The miners had been communicating with the outside by through an intercom line lowered through a 3 inch diameter bore hole. When asked how they survived being underground for two weeks, the miners reported they had survived on rations of two mouthfuls of tuna fish and a half a cup of milk every two days. The food was kept in the emergency shelter. When the miners were first able to communicate, the things they asked for were food, toothbrushes, and something for their eyes. “According to Paula Newman, a doctor in charge on monitoring the miner’s health, the minors are all in perfect health and none are traumatized. The health risks in a copper and gold mine are minimal if you have air, food, and water” (Hough).
The miners, in order to maintain stability, developed “a full hierarchy.” The shift leader was fifty-four year old Luis Urzua. He handed out the work assignments. The spiritual leader in the group was sixty-three year old Mario Gomez. He was the oldest among all the trapped miners. The miners organized themselves into teams that stay awake for twelve hour shifts. A nurse sent down a note at 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. to let the miners know when a shift was over. Each of the men had specific tasks: some were in charge of getting food, others medical care, others sanitation. The miners had a 2000-2500 calorie diet. This included high protein shakes, ham sandwiches, chicken and rice, fruit and yogurt. The miners also had to drink a gallon of water each day to stay hydrated. (Tresniowski).
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The Chile miners had endured the longest stretch ever faced by trapped miners. The one thing that the Chile miners had that all the other incidents didn’t have, is contact to the outside world. They were able to talk to their families by phone calls and one minute voice messages (Tresniowski).
Although they didn’t have any physical contact and they couldn’t see them, hearing them gave the miner’s a reason to stick together and do whatever they had to do, to make it out of the mine alive. Being stuck underground for such a long time without any physical contact with family and lack of natural resources, such as sunlight, can be tough on a person. The men had to stick together and pick each other up when one was starting to lose it.
The miners, along with their families, were initially told that it could take up until around Christmas until there were rescued. However after a tough sixty-nine days underground, and a twenty minute ride in an enclosed capsule, all thirty-three of the miners made it safely above ground, on October 13, 2010.