Since we covered this story a couple times through its development, thought I’d share the great news here (if you haven’t seen it elsewhere) that 26 of the 33 miners that have been trapped half a mile underground in Chile for months are now safely above ground.
“With remarkable speed — and flawless execution — one miner after another climbed into a slender cage deep beneath the Chilean earth, was hoisted through 2,000 feet of rock and saw precious sunlight Wednesday after the longest underground entrapment in human history,” Michel Warren of the Associated Press writes.
The weakest and sickest were some of the first out, and there is hope that the remaining 9 miners may also be pulled out before nightfall.
69 days underground, 2 weeks without contact with those above, nearly suffocated with smoke and surviving on a meager emergency food supply. Can you imagine?
President Sebastian Pinera somewhat dramatically told Victor Segvia, the 15th miner out, “Welcome to life.”
How did they get out, in a little capsule with a faulty door and squeaky wheels pulling them half a mile to the surface.
The men made the smooth ascent inside a capsule called Phoenix — 13 feet tall, barely wider than their shoulders and painted in the white, red and blue of the Chilean flag. It had a door that stuck occasionally, and its wheels needed lubricating at least once, but it worked exactly as planned.
Can you imagine the feelings inside these men’s chests?
The rescue operations started last night at midnight with one miner coming up at a time.
The men were being recorded on their way up so that the rescue team could see if they started to panic for some reason.
The miners did not come out too weak and beaten down, though. Some came out purely triumphant.
“The miners emerged looking healthier than many had expected and even clean-shaven, and at least one, Mario Sepulveda, the second to taste freedom, bounded out and thrust a fist upward like a prizefighter.”
Many of the miners may still be experiencing psychological problems from the over two months they were trapped underground. Luckily, Chile has said it is going to take good care of these strong men.
The men emerged in good health. But at the hospital in Copiapo, where miner after miner walked from the ambulance to a waiting wheelchair, it became clear that psychological issues would be as important to treat as physical ones.
Dr. Guillermo Swett said Sepulveda told him about an internal “fight with the devil” that he had inside the mine. He said Sanchez appeared to be having a hard time adjusting, and seemed depressed.
“He spoke very little and didn’t seem to connect,” the doctor said.
Chile has promised that its care of the miners won’t end for six months at least — not until they can be sure that each man has readjusted.
Psychiatrists and other experts in surviving extreme situations predict their lives will be anything but normal. Since Aug. 22, when a narrow bore hole broke through to their refuge and the miners stunned the world with a note, scrawled in red ink, disclosing their survival, their families have been exposed in ways they never imagined.
Miners had to describe their physical and mental health in detail with teams of doctors and psychologists. In some cases, when both wives and lovers claimed the same man, everyone involved had to face the consequences.
As trying as their time underground was, the miners now face challenges so bewildering that no amount of coaching can fully prepare them. Rejoining a world intensely curious about their ordeal, they have been invited to presidential palaces, to take all-expenses-paid vacations and to appear on countless TV shows. Book and movie deals are pending, along with job offers.
Photo Credit: Hugo Infante/Government of Chile, uploaded to flickr under a CC license by Jose Ojeda