Posts Tagged ‘Chile’
COPIAPO, Chile (AFP) – The 33 rescued Chilean miners pondered their futures Friday as they began to leave hospital and adjust to new lives in the media glare, after 69 days trapped in a gold and copper mine.
The first three of the group left hospital on Thursday under high security in a government vehicle that was chased by a mob of photographers after medics determined they were well enough to go home.
All 33 were admitted to hospital for treatment after their ordeal ended with a flawless rescue that inspired pride throughout Chile in a saga that captivated the world’s attention following a partial mine collapse in August.
Bolivian miner Carlos Mamani Soliz arrives at his house after being released from hospital in Copiapo, Chile on October 14, 2010.AFP
“I want to be alone, relax,” said Juan Illanes, one of those leaving the hospital, surrounded by a throng of journalists and onlookers as he set off to his humble house on a hill in this northern Chilean town.
Asked what he wanted for his future, Illanes said he was considering leaving the mining profession, if he could find other work, adding it was also time for him to realize a long held dream: “I want to go to Miami now,” he said.
“I’m well, really healthy,” said another of the trio who left hospital, Edison Pena.
“I thought I would never come back… Thank you for believing we were alive,” he added.”
As he worked his way through the crowd at the hospital entrance, Pena said: “We are not pop stars or anything, we’re just ordinary people.”
Hospital deputy director Jorge Montes said all 33 have undergone thorough medical exams, and those determined to have the fewest health problems were to be allowed to check out.
Another three of the miners had surgery under general anesthetic for serious dental problems, while one was being treated for pneumonia. Two were diagnosed with the lung disease silicosis that is common among miners.
Montes said most of the men were in surprisingly good health given their 10-week ordeal.
Chilean President Sebastian Pinera, who had been at the San Jose Mine over the 22-hour rescue to greet the emerging miners, hailed their “miracle” salvation during a visit Thursday to the hospital.
He sparked cheers when he suggested they form a football team under one of their number who used to be a professional player, Frank Lobos, for an October 25 game against rescuers and officials.
One of the miners, Richard Villaroel, gave a brief interview to Chilean public broadcaster TVN that gave powerful insights into their harrowing experiences.
“We all supported each other. When one of us found it tough, the comrade at his side helped him,” said Villaroel, the day after the 27-year-old mechanic emerged to be greeted by his pregnant wife.
Villaroel said that despite trying conditions in the dark, dank and hot hole where the miners survived for 17 days on fragments of food before being discovered, decisions were reached calmly and democratically.
“If a decision was taken in which one person lost, most would still be winners,” he explained. “The food was distributed in small portions, something that would last, the same for water.”
He also recalled his anguish when disaster struck on August 5.
“When the second rockfall came, that was the scariest moment because the mine was completely blocked. I thought that I would never see my wife again or the birth of my son.”
In the hospital, the miners still wore the dark glasses they received to protect their weakened eyes when they made the claustrophobic, 15-minute journey up from the underground cavern in the narrow Phoenix 2 rescue capsule.
But they also wore fresh clothes, gray T-shirts and hospital trousers, some in blue bathrobes, and were cleanly shaven — looking much fresher than the drawn-out figures who joyously tasted freedom a day earlier.
The miners now have the challenge of charting out a life forever changed by their ordeal.
Suddenly, they are household names in Chile and media stars around the world. They have been flooded with requests for interviews, and can even set their own price.
But Omar Reygadas, the son of one of the miners with the same name, said the men wanted everything to be shared equally.
“The miners have told the authorities they want to set up a foundation. They want it to cover everything (royalties from documentaries, films or books), and to cover all 33,” he told AFP.
Officials said they would seal up the escape shaft at the mine, which Pinera has placed a symbolic metal cover over, and dismantle the equipment there. Much of it was being tagged for inclusion in a future museum.
A captive global audience looked on as the first of 33 miners trapped for a record 68 days deep underground emerged Wednesday into the cold night air of Chile’s Atacama desert.
Chilean miner Florencio Avalos (L) is embraced by Chilean President Sebastian Piñera after been brought to the surface on October 13, 2010 following a 10-week ordeal in the collapsed San Jose mine, near Copiapo, 800 km north of Santiago, Chile.
People logged on and tuned in to read, watch and listen as Florencio Avalos was extracted safe and sound from 600 meters (2,000 feet) below ground at 0311 GMT, followed exactly one hour later by co-worker Mario Sepulveda.
Media outlets around the world including CNN International, Britain’s Sky News, France’s iTele and BFM and also Europe-wide Euronews live-streamed the drama as it unfolded in real time.
As well as cameras trained on the surface, viewers also saw grainy pictures of the miners still awaiting rescue in the their deep underground shelter.
The workers’ families had all but given up hope of seeing their loved ones again when on August 22 — 17 days after the collapse at the San Jose mine — a note tied to a drill probe announced their sensational survival to the world.
Millions, struggling to comprehend the nightmarish existence of the trapped men and the anguish of their families, have followed the long rescue efforts since as a shaft wide enough to extract the miners was drilled.
Wellwishers from around the globe, ranging from fellow miners to exalted heads of state, watched minute-by-minute overnight as a missile shaped capsule bearing Chile’s national colors was winched into the mine.
A measure of how the epic survival tale has ballooned into a global human interest story, live images from the site were broadcast to viewers as far afield as New York and Sydney, London and Tokyo.
The BBC streamed footage of the operation alongside a scrolling sidebar of mini-bites of information emerging from the crowd of relatives and Chilean politicians waiting to receive the miners-turned-national heroes.
Many outlets also employed counter graphics as the miners were brought out one-by-one.
Japan’s major television networks offered live coverage, complete with profiles of the 32 Chileans and one Bolivian, who survived their first 17 days before making contact with rescuers by rationing emergency supplies.
Japanese doctors discussed various medical complications the men could suffer, while Australian news stations, websites and radio bulletins devoted non-stop coverage to the dramatic operation.
“It was supposed to be a day off for me, and I was planning to catch up on my reading,” high school English teacher Tetsuro Umeji in Kudamatsu City, Japan, wrote on the BBC live feed.
“But now my eyes are glued to the computer screen as the rescue is broadcast live. Absolutely amazing! Congratulations, Chile! I will keep my fingers crossed until the last of the 33 miners is brought to the surface!”
Chile’s embassy in Washington DC set up a public live video feed of the rescue operation, which saw the men emerge one-by-one and reunite with relatives before being flown by helicopter to a nearby hospital.
In Europe, meanwhile, Austrian television had a special news program dedicated to the rescue — a rare occurrence for foreign events — and in the Netherlands the second-largest daily newspaper AD ran its first three pages dedicated to the event.
In the Spanish-speaking world, the rescue bid dominated news stations and websites.
Spanish-language station Univision ran live video of the site, while Chile’s La Tercera newspaper website carried a graphic header with empty boxes to be filled in as each miner emerged safe, and two counters tallying “rescued miners” and “miners in hospital.”
The interest appeared to overwhelm authorities managing media at the mine site. They ran out of international media badges and began issuing hand-labeled IDs to reporters arriving from as far afield as China and Turkey.
China’s Xinhua news agency and state television were reporting from the ground, and popular news portals Sohu and Sina set up special sections on their front pages featuring details on the rescue effort.
Throughout Asia, whether in Singapore, South Korea, Thailand or Vietnam, citizens were greeted with the exciting news that the first miners were out.
China’s CCTV streamed the first two rescues live, and South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo splashed the headline: “Today, Chile will be jubilant.”
Al-Jazeera’s English language station had a correspondent stationed at the site updating a Twitter feed with the latest information.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez also took to the micro-blogging site to send his best wishes to the rescue crews and the miners. “We are with Chile! God be with you,” he wrote.
The first of 33 miners trapped deep underground in a Chilean mine for a record 68 days were pulled out alive on Wednesday in an amazing story of human survival against all odds.
Chilean miner Jose Ojeda (C), the seventh of thirty-three miners to leave the mine exits the Fenix rescue capsule upon surfacing at the San Jose mine, near Copiapo, Chile October 13, 2010 early morning.
Here are short biographies of some of the most prominent miners whose tale of hope and endurance has captivated the world:
THE FIRST OUT: For a short time 31-year-old Florencio Avalos will be the most talked about man on the planet as he emerged first from the San Jose mine into the full glare of the media spotlight.
It is no coincidence Avalos was chosen to be first. The athletic father-of-two was the second most senior miner trapped and he was considered the safest pair of hands if something went wrong with the rescue capsule.
Avalos, who loves playing football with his two children, aged seven and 17, has a brother Renan — the doctor in the group due to his albeit limited medical experience — who will be one of the last miners to be pulled up.
THE LEADER: Luis Urzua, 54, was the head of shift when the mine collapsed on August 5 and has acted as a leader during the long months since even though he had only been working at the mine for two months.
“We’re well and waiting for you to rescue us,” Urzua told Chilean President Sebastian Pinera in a first telephone conversation from the collapsed mine. He said the confinement was like “hell.”
He described to the president how the mine caved in.
“The hill came down at 1:40 in the afternoon. We were worried for our colleagues who were heading out with a full truck. Then the dustbowl came and in four or five hours we couldn’t see what was going on, or what the situation was. Then we saw we were trapped by an enormous rock blocking the whole tunnel.”
Urzua has agreed to stay till the bitter end and be the last miner to be hoisted to freedom.
THE OLDEST: At 63, Mario Gomez is the oldest of the trapped miners. The son of a miner, Gomez has worked in the industry since the age of 12.
He expressed his love for his wife, to whom he has been married for 31 years, from the depths of the mine.
“He’s quiet and not someone to express his emotions,” said his wife Liliana Ramirez, after receiving a letter from her husband. “I was surprised by his letter. He said he loves me. I’ve never received a letter like that from him — even when we were going out he wasn’t romantic.”
The couple have four daughters.
THE EX-FOOTBALLER: Franklin Lobos, 53, is a former professional soccer player in a Chilean league. He received one of two signed T-shirts sent to the mine by Barcelona and Spanish World Cup winning star David Villa, whose father and grandfather were both miners.
“There are many (former) footballers in mining,” William Lobos, Franklin Lobos’ nephew, told AFP. “Since they only work until they are 36 years old, the mining companies which own the teams offer them work.”
Lobos did not fear working in the mine because his work was mainly transporting miners, so he spent less time in the darkness of the tunnels, his family said.
“He has two daughters and they are both studying. He took on two jobs to earn more,” said his nephew.
THE PRESENTER: Mario Sepulveda, 40, was the second worker to be pulled safely from the mine. During their 10-week ordeal he has presented most of the videos recorded by the group.
“I have been with God and with the devil,” he said on being rescued. “I fought between the two. I seized the hand of God, it was the best hand. I always knew God would get us out of there.”
His joyous celebrations, which included handing out rocks to rescuers and officials, were an immediate hit around the world.
Sepulveda’s wife, Elvira Valdivia, says he is a natural leader. He was a union representative in another mine in the same company.
THE BOLIVIAN: Carlos Mamani, 23, is the only non-Chilean in the group. The Bolivian national was the fourth miner to taste freedom. Bolivian President Evo Morales is expected to fly in on Wednesday to personally escort him home.
THE YOUNGEST: At just 19, Jimmy Sanchez is the youngest of the 33 trapped workers and had only been working in the mine for five months before disaster struck. He was the fifth to be pulled to safety.
Calmly stepping out of the claustrophobic rescue cage, Florencio Avalos embraced his tearful seven-year-old son and let fresh air fill his lungs as he tasted freedom after 10 long weeks and Chile erupted in joy.
Chilean miner Claudio Yanez, the eighth of thirty-three miners to leave the mine, is hugged by a relative upon surfacing at the San Jose mine, near Copiapo, Chile October 13, 2010 early morning.
Whistles and screams of delight greeted the return to the surface of the missile-shaped Phoenix rescue capsule as a captivated world audience applauded the arrival of Avalos and paid tribute to an unparalleled feat of survival.
After more than 68 days trapped deep underground in a damp, hot mine shaft plagued by doubt and fear, the reactions of the first miners as they were pulled from their subterranean hell were awe-inspiring.
Wearing dark glasses to shield his vulnerable eyes from the light, Avalos kissed his wife and comforted his son who was overwhelmed by the tension as the creaking winch hoisted his father up more than 600 meters (2,000 feet).
After receiving a bear-hug from Chilean President Sebastian Pinera, Avalos embraced relatives of the other miners, some unable to hold back tears, amid a throng of hundreds of journalists and wellwishers.
The celebrations only got louder when the second miner, Mario Sepulveda, emerged and put on an exuberant show that completely defied the gravity of his nightmarish ordeal.
Delving into a bag, 40-year-old Sepulveda produced rocks and handed them as ironic gifts to officials and rescuers alike as he laughed and led the congregation in an impromptu chant of celebration.
Later dubbed “Super Mario” by Chilean newspapers, pictures of Sepulveda leaping before a crowd of rescuers and wellwishers were beamed around the world.
Later he was more serious. “I have been with God and with the devil. I fought between the two. I seized the hand of God, it was the best hand. I always knew God would get us out of there,” he said.
Sadly, the elation of some of 31-year-old Avalos’s family members turned to horror when a media scrum trampled their humble tent in a mad rush to secure that all-important interview.
Avalos’s father Alfonso, tears running down his face, had just exclaimed: “It’s a huge joy. I’m so happy” and hugged his wife Maria Silva when things turned ugly.
Reporters pushed and shoved to be the first to interview them, pulling on the hair of those in the way, throwing punches and almost knocking others to the ground.
The chaos and jostling marred the celebrations as the journalists rushed forward as one to capture the historic moment and surrounded the tent on all sides in walls of cameras and journalists.
The family retreated, and a frightened-looking Maria angrily hit out at journalists close to her with the Chilean flag bunched in her hand.
The mayhem stood out in an otherwise festive occasion in which families and reporters alike shared the euphoria of seeing the miners emerging one by one from the earth.
But it was also revealing of the media pressure that has built up around the 33 miners, who have become national icons in Chile, and internationally famous.
Since their discovery on August 22, alive against all hope, their extraordinary struggle to survive has become an epic tale of human endurance followed closely by a captive audience around the globe.
The 32 Chileans and one Bolivian have become national heroes and imminent media stars, with books, movies and a barrage of press coverage likely from the moment they emerged from the mine.
In the ultimate sign of just how big a spectacle the miners’ rescue has become, television megastar Don Francisco — one of the biggest celebrities in all of Latin America — was broadcasting from the site.
“I haven’t seen so much media attention since the Apollo XI back in 1969,” said the Chilean performer, referring to the NASA mission that sent men to the moon for the first time.
In a party atmosphere, balloons drifted into the air and confetti showered on the heads of the crowds in pictures transmitted live to televisions sets and computer screens across the world.
Camp Hope, as the camp at the entrance to the fateful mine has been baptized, was home to a couple of hundred relatives of the miners when the accident first occurred trapping them August 5.
As the rescue neared, the number of relatives swelled to 800 — but was quickly dwarfed by around 2,000 media employees who arrived from around the world to cover the momentous event.
An intense cold front is rearing its head across South America, killing dozens, closing down highways, and killing cattle across the Andes.
At least 26 people have died in Argentina, from a combination of exposure to harsh climates, poisoning from carbon monoxide inhalation, and other factors, according to the Associated Press.
The front, which set in Saturday, has remained over much of the countries in the Southern Hemisphere, which are in the height of winter now.
As authorities respond to shelter for thousands in need, the cold snap could wreak havoc on farmers for months to come. Argentina is just coming out of one of its worst droughts in five decades, which saw cows dying and grassland shriveled last year. In neighboring Paraguay, authorities say approximately 1,000 cattle have frozen to death.
Ten people have died in Paraguay, while in Uruguay, some two deaths have been reported due to low temperatures as of Tuesday. The Andina news agency reports that pregnant alpacas in Peru have been losing their babies.
As one reader noted on the CNN website: “I think many people are failing to realize that in some parts of these countries there is no infrastructure to handle these temperatures. While it may seem like a mild winter to some of us in the US, these places do not have similar well-heated homes. Some of them live in basic shacks.”
In Bolivia, school was cancelled through at least Wednesday, as the nation faced 18 deaths due to low temperatures. In the eastern city of Santa Cruz de la Sierra, an opposition stronghold in this normally tropical region, the temperature, at 37 F, was the lowest reported in nearly three decades. Elsewhere in the country it dropped below freezing.
In Chile, the Associated Press reports that the capital, Santiago, has turned a sports stadium into a shelter after one reported death linked to exposure.
And further south, in the Aysen region (Summer Photo Essay), heavy snow has cut off access to many small towns that dot this sparsely-populated province. Weather forecasters say that this cold front could persist through tonight, and into tomorrow.