69-day trapped Chilean miners being lifted one by one to safety
As the world waited with batted breath for the rescue of the trapped Chilean miners who were ‘entombed’ for 69 agonizing days 700 meters under the earth, they were hoisted one by one to freedom on Wednesday. rescued.
Until late evening 21 of 33 trapped miners were rescued. Officials said the operation could be completed by sunrise on Thursday.
The rescue operation, what the local media are calling "The Great Rescue,” is being telecast and broadcast live to the world. Beginning at midnight and sometimes as quickly as every 40 minutes, the men were climbing up by a slender cage nearly from half a mile underground.
Avalos was the first to be successfully rescued. The 31-year-old second-in-command of the miners was chosen to be first because he was in the best condition. Mario Sepulveda was the second to be lifted out. "I never doubted. I always knew God would rescue us," he said in a television interview. A third Chilean miner, Juan Illanes, followed after another hour, and then the lone Bolivian, Carlos Mamani, was pulled out.
Miners appeared in remarkably good condition as they emerged, one by one, to hearty cheers from rescue workers and hugs and kisses from tearful loved ones. Most waved or gave a thumbs-up to the crowd.
Speaking as workers, the Chilean President Sebastian Pinera said: "However strongly nature beats us, Chile always knows how to stand up and continue walking."
"In the face of adversity, we're capable of great things."
Piñera was joined at the site by Bolivian President Evo Morales, who arrived to greet the only foreigner trapped in the collapsed mine, a Bolivian named Carlos Mamani.
Morales, who called the rescue operation "incredible but true," said Mamani would be guaranteed a job and benefits back home. "This is a historic moment," Morales added.
The last miner out has been decided: Shift foreman Luis Urzua, whose leadership was credited for helping the men endure 17 days with no outside contact after the collapse.
The Copiapo mining accident occurred on August 5 when the San Jose copper and gold mine collapsed, leaving 33 men trapped deep below ground. The San José Mine is about 45 kilometres north of Copiapó, in northern Chile. The miners were trapped at approximately 700 metres (2,300 ft) deep and about 5 kilometres , following the twists and turns of the main entrance shaft, from the mine entrance.
The mine had a history of instability that had led to previous accidents, including deaths.
Chile has a long tradition in mining, which developed during the 20th century and made the country the world's top producer of copper. Since 2000, an average of 34 people have died every year in mining accidents in Chile, with a high of 43 in 2008, according to a review of data collected by the state regulatory agency.
The mine is owned by Empresa Minera San Esteban, which has a poor safety record and has suffered a series of mishaps, with several workers being killed in recent years. Between 2004 and 2010, the company received 42 fines for breaching safety regulations. The mine was shut down after an accident in 2007 when relatives of a miner who had died sued company executives but the mine was reopened in 2008, despite failing to comply with all regulations, a matter still under investigation.
Chilean copper mine workers are among the highest-paid miners in South America. Although the accident itself has put into question mine safety in Chile, serious accidents in large mines are rare.
When the collapse occurred there were two groups of miners. A dust cloud occurred during the collapse, blinding many miners for six hours and causing lingering eye irritation and burning. A first group of miners were near or at the entrance of the mine and escaped immediately without incident. The main group of 33 miners was deep inside the mine and included local workers and some subcontracted employees of a different company, who would not normally have been with them.
The miners' location and fate were unknown for 17 days, until a drill probing for air pockets poked through into a lunchroom where the men were waiting.
The miners had listened to the drills approaching for days and had prepared pre-written notes to their rescuers on the surface as well as making sure they had adhesive tape to secure the prepared notes to the drill once its tip poked into their space. The notes surprised the rescuers when they pulled the drill bit out and discovered the letters; the miners having survived longer than anyone had expected. The note read: "Estamos bien en el refugio los 33" (English: "The 33 of us in the shelter are well").
Hours later, cameras sent down the bore hole made contact with the miners, taking the first images of the trapped workers. Although the emergency supplies were intended for only two or three days, the miners rationed them to last for 17 days until contact with the surface. They consumed "two little spoonfuls of tuna, a sip of milk and a biscuit every 48 hours" and a morsel of peach. They used the batteries of a truck to power their helmet lamps.
- Asian Tribune -