Belfast Telegraph

Friday 29 August 2014

Live: Chile miners rescue - world watches rescue drama

Watch live video feed below

Alfonso Avalos, father of trapped miner Florencio Avalos, reacts while watching on a TV screen the rescue operation of his son, the first of 33 miners to be lifted to the surface
Miner Mario Gomez gestures after exiting the capsule that brought him to the surface during his rescue from the collapsed San Jose gold and copper mine where he had been trapped with 32 other miners for over two months near Copiapo, Chile
Some of the 33 trapped miners inside the San Jose mine in Copiapo, Chile (AP)

Footage of brave, dignified miners who had been trapped for more than two months being brought to the surface, to breathe fresh air and to hug their loved-ones, were broadcast live to a global audience.

Communications technology - including pictures from within the mine - turned the entire world into a global village hoping for the safe release of men they did not know and would probably never meet.

In Spain, Elias Saguillo, one of some 50 Spanish coal miners who staged a month-month-longlong underground protest in September over unpaid wages and demands for subsidies, said he and his colleagues followed the Chilean ordeal day after day and are now elated over the rescue.

"Mainly we are proud of how the Chilean miners endured. From the first day through to the end, they behaved like true miners," Saguillo, 45, said after finishing his shift in northern Palencia province, where he and colleagues spent 28 days at a depth of 500 metres (1,650 feet).

Saguillo said the worst part for the Chileans had to be the two weeks they spent right after the mine collapsed, before word from above ground reached them and they did not know if anyone was even looking for them. "Every possible fear must have gone through their heads," Saguillo said.

The riveting rescue images were broadcast live throughout much of the Middle East, Asia, Europe and Africa throughout the night and during the day, drawing round-the-clock coverage from many cable outlets.

State broadcaster China Central Television ran a segment on its evening broadcast while the official Chinese news agency Xinhua carried an editorial praising the rescue: "For more than two months, the miners, families, citizens and the government all have created a miracle of life. The rescue reflects the shining moment of human nature."

China's avid interest is partly a reflection of its own sensitivity to mining issues.

China's mining industry is considered by far the world's deadliest, with more than 2,600 coal miners killed last year by accidents and blasts. Those figures reflect a decrease from previous years as the government moved to improve safety by shutting down many illegal mines.

In South Korea's capital Seoul, the miners were a top news item on numerous media outlets, with 24-hour all-news channel YTN closely following the rescue.

The Korea Economic Daily also ran a photo showing Chilean President Sebastian Pinera hugging a rescued miner on its front page with a headline reading: "A 69-day miracle ... trapped Chilean miners pulled out."

Clifford Aron, an American businessman who lives in Poland, said he was deeply moved by the heroism of the miners and the quality of Chile's leaders.

"The obvious contrast is with America," said Aron, a 52-year-old from Brooklyn. "With Hurricane Katrina, the Bush administration was completely incompetent and out to lunch on the human tragedy; with the BP oil spill, the Obama approach was to punt over responsibility to BP. The Chileans have shown us what leadership and crisis management is all about. Lives were at stake and the whole machinery of government snapped into action."

He said the miners show stunning resilience.

"This was the most amazing story I had ever seen," he said. "Those miners are the greatest heroes I can think of - for their endurance and solidarity in the most unimaginable conditions. What an inspiration to us all to learn how to get along."

The TV coverage also had special resonance for Todd Russell and Brant Webb, two Australian miners who were trapped by an earthquake more than half than a mile (a kilometre) underground for two weeks in 2006. Both said they were overcome by emotion as they watched from half a world away.

Live video feed

But Russell, 38, warned that the freed miners face a harsh adjustment. He has suffered from insomnia and nightmares since his rescue and has been diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder, which he blames for the collapse of his marriage.

"They've got a long way to go," he told Australia's Nine Network television. "They're only in the early stages of their release."

The Chamber of Mines of South Africa, which has the deepest mines in the world, sent a message of congratulations to their counterparts in Chile after the first few miners were lifted to the surface.

"We have been encouraged by the ingenuity of those responsible for the rescue operation," said acting CEO Peter Bunkell, who said serious technical challenges had to be overcome to get the men out alive.

In Germany, Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle rejoiced.

"We're very happy about it - what's happening here is a little modern miracle," he said on Germany's ARD television.

"I would like to express my respect for the Chilean government and also the Chilean people, who are now celebrating in joy but of course held out for weeks, didn't give up on anyone and worked to protect and save every life."

From crisis to hope

7 August "We want to be realistic, the chance to provide a quick solution is extremely low."



Alexander Bohn, general manager of the mine



12 August "The hope of finding them alive still exists. If things go well and God helps us, this weekend we can contact them. Our rescuers have covered more than two-thirds of the path to reach these compatriots."



Sebastián Piñera, Chilean President



22 August "All 33 of us are well inside the shelter."



Note from the miners attached to a probe and brought to the surface, 17 days after the mine collapsed



24 August "Psychologically, we have to try to keep them on the right track... They understand that we have to go through 700 metres of solid rock to rescue them."



Laurence Golborne, Chile's mining minister



27 August "We have organised everything very well down here."



Mario Sepúlveda, one of the trapped miners



19 September "Today for the first time we have three machines working simultaneously. We don't know when they will reach them. But we know one thing – with the help of God, they will reach them."



Mr Piñera



9 October "There have been hard moments, beautiful moments, sad moments, moments filled with happiness, nights where we were cold here... But we just kept going, trusting in God that this would all work out. Right now all I feel is happiness; it's like a calm has come over us."



Juan Sánchez, father of trapped miner Jimmy, after the drill reached the miners



12 October "Here the tension is higher than down below. Down there they are calm."



Veronica Ticona, sister of miner Ariel



12 October "There were days when we lost all hope, but I don't want that to take away from the joy we're feeling now... I want you to tell the world that what's happened here was a miracle."



Maria Herrera, sister of miner Daniel

Wikipedia: 2010 Copiapó mining accident

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