Wednesday, October 13, 2010

¡Viva los chilenos! ¡Rescue of Miners and Rescuers Complete! ¡Misión cumplida!


Like others, I have been struck by the solidarity and joy of the rescue after 70 days of 33 Chilean miners.  Their survival and rescue is a tribute first to themselves, who managed to survive 17 days before being discovered, and then to national and international governmental and specialist collaboration amongst engineers, miners, physicians, and mental health professionals. Different aspects stand out for various people around the world watching. For me, those that stand out most are the aspects which touch on my areas of expertise, and where this effort was truly remarkable for thoroughness and accuracy.

"We are well in the shelter, all 33",
the note the foreman attached to a drill probing for survivors/bodies, on day 17

Some of what stands out for me:

--the leadership and structure amongst the group even prior to being discovered--this has been proven to be key in mental, physical, and social survival in other settings where people are confined in extremis

--the use the men made of their own knowledge and skill to survive, and to make their conditions as livable as possible, including the abilities: to navigate the safe tunnels to shelter; to organize a structured life; to plan; to ration food, water, light; and to dig, ie latrines, for sanitation, and wells for safe water

--the ability of the group to deal with untoward incidences among them which occurred in the first few days of establishing a livable, workable new society; and, the agreement not to reveal details about this

--the choices the men made to save the whole group and reach for the collective good, rather than adopt a survival of the fittest approach; and their successful group leadership and cohesion to do so even before being discovered

--the response of the Chilean government, including reaching out for the expertise of other governmental groups eg NASA, US and Canadian mining experts, etc.

--the creation of  Camp Hope, Campamento Esperanza, for family solidarity and support of the miners, allowing 2 way communication and "access" which preserved individual and collective health

--attention to medical physical health, with an emphasis on circadian rhythms (maintaining normal 24hr light dark cycles essential for physical functions as well as mental health), maintenance of treatments for chronic illnesses, prevention of new ones through exercise and nutrition, and first aid

--attention to mental health, individually and collectively, emphasizing social life and structure, "jobs" and "professional roles", collective worship in the form of prayer groups (participating in a social form of religious activity is proven to be beneficial to mental health); individual sessions with a psychologist psychotherapist, multiple times per day as necessary, and the use of women therapists for anxiety reduction (apparently their voices worked best; also, there are things men will admit to a woman they won't to a man, eg how truly terrified they are); the use of psychotropic medication where necessary (antidepressants for one miner);  communication with the outside world, family and friends, and celebrating life events, like births, birthdays, anniversaries, Chile's National Day (200 years), etc

--controlling media access and protecting the miners and their families first

--the legal agreements signed while down there, not to share certain details, and to share equally all profits from media contracts; both of these are very important for maintaining self-esteem, social relationships, and for protecting all, as some will draw by their looks or their stories more attention and income than others

--the emphasis on safety first, and testing so thoroughly the newly designed and constructed rescue equipment and plan

--the celebration with both joy and dignity as the miners surfaced, giving priority to medical safety, psychological support, personal ritual (some prayed, some held up a flag, some showed a sign of triumph to the crowd) and to connection with a loved one--over crowds, grandstanding, and media access

--recognition that this is the beginning of further healing and re-integration; and of more mining safety


The 33, in order of rescue (from AlJazeera's coverage)
Florencio Avalos, 31
Mario Sepulveda, 40
Juan Illanes, 52
Carlos Mamani, 24
Jimmy Sanchez, 19
Osman Araya, 30
Jose Ojeda, 47
Claudio Yanez, 34
Mario Gomez, 63
Alex Vega, 31
Jorge Galleguillos, 55
Edison Pena, 34
Carlos Barrios, 27
Victor Zamora, 33
Victor Segovia, 48
Daniel Herrera, 27
Omar Reygadas, 56
Esteban Rojas, 44
Pablo Rojas, 45
Dario Segovia, 48
Yonni Barrios, 50
Samuel Avalos, 43
Carlos Bugueno, 27
Jose Henriquez, 54
Renan Avalos, 29
Claudio Acuna, 44
Franklin Lobos, 53
Richard Villarroel, 26
Juan Aguilar, 49
Raul Bustos, 40
Pedro Cortez, 24 or 26
Ariel Ticona, 29
Luis Urzua, 54


Timeline of the rescue and some details about each from The Independent

The saved...

1. 12:04am (Chilean time) Florencio Avalos The first to be rescued was met by his family and the Chilean President.

2. 1:10am Mario Sepulveda Carried a bag containing souvenir rocks, one of which he gave to President Pinera.

3. 2:08am Juan Illanes Celebrated his birthday while in the mine, and said the trip to the surface felt like a "cruise".

4. 3:09am Carlos Mamani The only foreigner in the group, President Pinera held a small Bolivian flag in his honour.

5. 4:10am Jimmy Sanchez The 19-year-old was the youngest in the group, and had been a miner for only five months.

6. 5:34am Osman Araya Began to cry as he was reunited with his wife in one of the most touching scenes of the day.

7. 6:21am Jose Ojeda Diabetes-sufferer Ojeda held aloft a Chilean flag as he left the capsule and was met by his stepdaughter.

8. 7:02am Claudio Yanez Was met by his fiancée, who had proposed to the drill operator by letter while he was in the mine.

9. 7:59am Mario Gomez Fell to his knees and prayed on reaching the surface, before hugging his wife, Lilianette Ramirez.

10. 8:52am Alex Vega Embraced his wife after leaving the capsule, and later held a Bible while being taken to the triage area.

11. 9:31am Jorge Galleguillos Had talked of feeling unwell in one of the miners' videos, and emerged with a full beard.

12. 10:11am Edison Peña Known as "the runner" because of the exercise regime he kept up while in the mine.

13. 10:54am Carlos Barrios Met by his father, who said in August that the miners' discovery was "more than a miracle".

14. 11:30am Victor Zamora While underground sent poems to his wife, who was there to meet him together with their son.

15. 12:07pm Victor Segovia Kept a diary while in the mine, and told by President Pinera that he is about to start a "new life".

16. 12:49pm Daniel Herrera Had the role of paramedic's assistant in the mine, and was greeted by his sobbing mother.

17. 1:38pm Omar Reygadas On leaving the capsule he knelt, holding a Bible. The 56-year-old has four great-grandchildren.

18. 2:49 pm Esteban Rojas, 44, proposed a church wedding "once and for all" in a message to the woman he married in a civil ceremony 25 years ago. They have three children.

19. 3:27pm Pablo Rojas, 45, reportedly went to work at the mine six months ago to help pay university fees for his son, who is studying medicine. He is married.

20. 3:59pm Dario Segovia, 48, is a lifelong miner whose father first took him underground at age 8. Twice married, he had three children from each marriage. He had worked at the mine for three months, drilling holes for dynamite. He has 12 brothers and sisters.

21. 4:31pm Johnny Barrios Rojas, 50, worked for 25 years at the mine and served as the medic for the group because he'd had first aid training. Awaiting above are relationships that need healing as well: his wife and his lover met at Camp Hope.

22. 5:04pm Samuel Avalos, 43, is married with three children, had been working as a street vendor and got a job at the mine for more money.

23. 5:32pm Carlos Bugueno, 26, found himself trapped alongside a childhood friend, Pedro Cortez. A passionate soccer fan, he asked to have game broadcasts piped below. Relatives said the former security guard went to work at the mine to earn money for a car and house.

24. 5:59pm Jose Henriquez, 55, formed and led a prayer group while trapped and had friends send 33 small Bibles down the tiny supply hole. Chilean reports say that in January he helped save several miners who had passed out in the mine, apparently due to gas, and had to be rescued himself when he was overcome returning for another miner. Married with twin daughters, he has spent 33 years in the mines and survived a landslide on the surface in 1986.

25. 6:24pm Renan Avalos, 29, is the brother of the first man out. He had worked at the mine five months.

26. 6:51pm Claudio Acuna, 35, proposed to his girlfriend Fabiola Araya from below ground. He has two children.

27. 7:18pm Franklin Lobos, 53, a former professional soccer player, drove the bus that carried the miners to work. Lobos was a midfielder on the Chilean teams La Serena, Iquique and Cobresal, and was on the national team that qualified for the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. He has two daughters.

28. 7:44pm Richard Villaroel, 23, is returning to his wife, who is in the late stages of pregnancy.

29. 8:13pm Juan Carlos Aguilar, 46, has worked as a miner since he was 19. He is married with two children.

30. 8:37pm Raul Bustos, 40, a hydraulic engineer, was caught up in both of Chile's two recent tragedies. The tsunami caused by February's earthquake destroyed the shipyard where he worked. So he journeyed north to work in the mine — two months before he was trapped there. He would travel back 20 hours by bus to visit his wife and two children.

31. 9:01pm Pedro Cortez, 25, an electrician, helped install the communications system used to talk back and forth with the surface. He lost a finger in an earlier mining accident. He and his wife are separated and have one daughter.

32. 9.28pm Ariel Ticona, 28, was still awaiting rescue when his wife gave birth to their second daughter. They named her Hope. He worked with Mr Cortez to install the underground communications system.

33. 9.55pm Luis Alberto Urzua, 54, shift foreman at the time of the collapse, is widely credited with helping the men survive by enforcing tight rations of their limited food, lights and other supplies. Speaking for the miners shortly after their discovery, he told Chilean president Sebastian Pinera: "We hope that all of Chile shows its strength to help us get out of this hell."


There are many images online, here and here, for example. I have chosen to emphasize only the collective ones, though there are many compelling individual ones. I feel it is in the best spirit of the survival and rescue to do so.


Have you been following this rescue?
What has struck you most about it?
Your thoughts, impressions, comments?


*Post published after the final one of the 6 rescue workers who went below was brought up to the surface.

4 comments:

Susanne said...

great post! I was able to watch the last few miners being rescued at my ILs' house last night. Really wonderful news!

Wendy said...

Wonderful post, Chiara!
I think the world can have nothing but praise for Chile and the way the disaster was handled. The country has shown what can be done and in my memory I can't think of another disaster that has been handled in such a wonderful, thoughtful and efficient way from start to finish. The help that was brought in for the miners' AND their families' well-being, both physical and mental, was so important and so well-thought out and the caring for the families right to the end such as ensuring the women could get their hair and nails done ... a little thing but so, so caring! Such a good news story!!!

oby said...

I am so relieved that it was a very happy ending. i think it is amazing that they survived so long down there without cracking up or becoming violent with each other. they were able to create a little world for themselves to survive until rescue. Faith, cooperation and a hell f a lot of people who cared and a big dollop of luck too!

Majed said...

I am very happy for the miners and their families, although, a lot has been said about the intentions and agendas of the president of chely for rallying all those rescue efforts, and for his personally overseeing the rescue operations and also the intentions of others who have been of great help in it, regardless of everything, I think they did a very commendable job.

I think we should not disregard or underestimate the role of the Media in acting as a distress whistle for the miners and and their families in this specific case,it really made a significant impact on people worldwide.

But, let be clear to all, that no one can claim to have a hand in the survival of the miners,after God than the miners themselves, all others only have well done their duties, though they most often fail to do, I stopped counting how many people lose their lives burried alive, in pursuit of decent life for themselves and for their families, mostly in china and also in other places every year.

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