If you don’t know what I’m talking about when I refer to the ‘Chile miners‘, then you’ve been living on another planet since the beginning of August.
I woke up at 5 to 6 yesterday morning to the news that the first 2 miners had been brought to the surface.
For 69 days, they have been living underground, trapped in the mine which collapsed as they ate lunch on August 5th. Rescue workers didn’t know they were even alive for 17 days following the accident.
Yesterday morning however was different: While Breakfast went out as normal on BBC 1, the News channel had switched to continuous coverage of the rescue attempts. I tuned in as the fourth miner was on his way up.
I had the live feed on the BBC News website up on my computer screen, so I could read updates and what other people were saying (the whole thing’s been archived here).
The coverage was still on air at lunchtime when I returned from college; by this time the rescue had been going on for over 9 hours but was not yet half complete! But the lowering and raising of the capsule had become routine by now.
I didn’t see the coverage during yesterday evening, but by the time I woke up this morning the news had broken that all 33 miners plus the 5 rescuers who had gone down into the mine, had made their way out safely. The Chilean authorities had organized it extremely well, and even chosen a specific order in which the miners were to be rescued. This basically meant first up, were the fittest, and the ones who’d be able to cope well if something was to go wrong in the early stages. Then, the most vulnerable, and finally, the strongest… the ones who can cope with seeing everyone else make their way to freedom. You can find out about all 33 men on the BBC News website.
If you didn’t see any of the coverage, then you’re probably wondering how the BBC filled the time between miners reaching the surface – about 30-60 minutes between each one.
This is what made it clear how important this operation was to the Chilean people. BBC correspondents spoke to psychologists here in the UK about how recent events could effect the miners; health-wise, I think it was clear that there was surprise about the state of the miners.
Chilean president Sebastián Piñera greeted each miner at the surface, making clear how he has personally supported the miners and did all he could in order to rescue them. In fact, most Chileans beleive the authorities have handled the situation well – with Piñera’s popularity ratings soaring to above 70%!
Marijke B from The Netherlands tweets: “The Chilean mine rescue is like the first moon landing all over again. The waiting, the tension. Tears down my cheeks with every rescued miner”.
Source: BBC News
The Chilean president took time to speak to other world leaders – during a phone call to David Cameron he said “David, thank-you for your kind words. Next Monday we shall share a cup of tea at Downing Street Number 10”, while the Bolivian president visited mine itself.
The last few months have broken a few records – there was surprise when the miners were found alive 17 days after becoming trapped, nearly 3 weeks ago, they became the longest surviving miners (no one has ever survived for more than 50 days trapped in a mine), and this week all 33 were released. All due to the hierarchical society they had set up. Everyone had their role, and they were as part of the outcome of the operation as the rescuers working on the surface.
The number 33 has taken on a special significance for the miners, who are known to be superstitious: there are 33 miners, it took 33 days for the drill to complete the rescue shaft and Roman Catholic Chileans believe Jesus Christ was 33 years old when he died. All the miners were rescued on 13/10/10*… 13 + 10 + 10 = 33!
I think these events have really brought Chile into the spotlight now. If you’d have asked me 71 days ago “Who is Sebastián Piñera?“, I’d probably have said something along the lines of “I’ve never heard of him“. He was only elected earlier this year. Only 30 years ago, Chile had a military dictatorship and these events have shown how the country has moved on since then.
For the miners, they’ve become national heroes, some people are saying that we could be seeing more from one or two of them on television; others are reported to have said they will never go near a mine again, while for others they will look for work in another mine.
I think its quite impressive to think that 33 men have survived for this long in tough conditions. With mining having been a massive industry in the UK once, I can see why the BBC covered this story as many people in the UK would have been familiar with the risks involved in mining.
I wonder how long it will be though before we no longer hear updates from Chile on the news though. Like all stories, this will eventually become one which we won’t hear of again, except maybe to celebrate the anniversary of their release (or something like that). Obviously, over the next few days we’ll probably hear many documentaries about their time in the mine, maybe some of them will speak to newspapers, magazines, television and radio stations about their time.
You’ve heard my opinions on this… but lets not forget, this website is designed so that you can tell me your thoughts. E-mail me on firstname.lastname@example.org, or fill in the comments form below.
*Chilean time – ignore the last few who were released 14/10/10 UK time.