By: Hayley Goldfarb
For 69 days the world has watched the story of 33 trapped Chilean miners unfold. When the small copper and gold mine collapsed on August 5th 2010, the lives of the miners were hanging in the balance. No one knew if the 33 men in the mine had survived the devastating mine collapse. Family and friends of the miners waited anxiously for any news of their loved ones, but it was 17 long days until a probe sent into the mine came back with the note, “All 33 of us are fine in the shelter”. Although that was a time for rejoicing and excitement, it also compounded the need for immediate action.
A rescue team was quickly ordered to begin sending down cans of food, water, flashlights and necessities of life. The men started on a rigorous diet and exercise plan in order to keep them healthy, as their health had severely deteriorated in their long 17 days underground. Luis Urzua, the foremen of the crew, has been credited with rationing their supplies and ultimately saving the lives of the other 32 men. In a letter, Urzua wrote, “[We] used vehicles for light and a backhoe to dig a canal to retrieve underground water”. After this discovery, “a three way race” began between three drills that were designed to reach the miners so a capsule could go down and get them.
On Saturday October 9th, the rescue shaft was completed and on Monday, October 11th the capsule was sent for its first test run and stopped only 10 meters from the miners. The capsule, which carried the miners through 650 meters of rock, was barely the size of a man’s shoulders and each one-way journey was expected to take half an hour.
Three days following the capsule’s test run, on Thursday at 12:04 AM, the world anxiously watched as the first miner, Florencio Avalas, was carried up the capsule towards the surface. Avalos was the second in command, and was chosen to be the first because he was in the best mental and physical condition. One by one, the miners rose to the surface, where they were greeted by up to three anxious and joyful family members and friends.
The order of which the miners were rescued was incredibly specific. The first group of 10 were considered to be physically strong, the second group of 13 physically weak, and the last group emotionally strong. Among the miners was Osman Isidro Araya, a father of three who planned to quit the mine at the end of August because of the hazardous nature of the job, Victor Segavio, who kept a diary of his life below ground and Johnny Barrios Rojas, whose mistress greeted him when he was rescued instead of his wife. Each and every rescue pulled at global heartstrings as thousands of Chileans lined the mine to cheer and show their support for their fellow Chileans. Every miner had a story—including Claudio Acuna, who proposed to his wife underground, and Ariel Ticona, whose wife gave birth to their second daughter while he was awaiting rescue.
After a brief five minute reunion with their loved ones, the miners were brought to a temporary field hospital to have a general examination, and then to a real hospital where they received more medical attention. The last man to be brought up was Luis Urzua, who was welcomed by his wife and a flood of emotional and whistling countrymen. Each man was personally greeted by the Chilean President Sebastian Pinera, who vowed to close the mine and prevent an event like this from ever happening again in Chile. The men all have a long road to recovery and integration back into normal life, but right now they are all simply happy to be alive.