After 69 days of being trapped 2,047 feet (640 meters) underground, all 33 miners have safely emerged from the San José mine in Chile and have reunited with their loved ones. This is the first time anyone has survived being so deep underground.
The men were working in a remote gold and copper mine in the Atacama desert when on August 5th the tunnel collapsed. Over two weeks later, rescuers discovered they were still alive when a probe picked up a message written by a miner to his wife. At the time experts predicted the miners would be rescued by December, but with international support including experts from NASA, the rescue mission was completed on October 13th.
The joy and celebration started a day early as the first miner successfully rose to the surface, indicating there was a chance that all could safely make it. The process took 16 minutes, half the predicted time. Thirty-one year-old Florencio Ávalos was met by his tearful son and wife, as well as the jubilant President Sebastián Piñera, who warmly embraced every miner that surfaced.
Immediately after surfacing the miners were sent to the hospital by helicopter to undergo a series of examinations including a lung x-ray and heart monitoring. While some have dental infections or eye problems, Health Minister Jaime Mañalich reports their condition is much better than anticipated. Still the government has promised the miners 6 months of psychological support as they adjust to a normal life. Eugen Gaal of the UK Society of Occupational Medicine explains, “Feelings of panic, nightmares, anxiety, even physical symptoms are well known after traumatic events.”
In a televised address, President Piñera said, “When the last miner exited the depths of the mine, I was moved as every Chilean was…What ended up as a real blessing from God started as a possible tragedy. But the unity, the faith, the compromise, the honesty, the solidarity of the Chileans in those 69 days makes us very proud.”
In an interview the President states that those responsible for the mine’s collapse would not be held in impunity. In addition, he recognizes that Chile needs to learn from this experience, and pledges to ensure safer conditions for mining, agriculture, fishing, construction and other industries with hazardous conditions.
A few facts about the miners:
The following video is entirely in Spanish but is still worth watching for the overwhelming joy expressed as the last miner Urzúa emerges. He is saluted by the beaming President, who commends him on his leadership, as well as the miners for their courage, the rescuers for their tireless efforts and for God for always being with them.
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