Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Chilean mining rescue continues (Updated)

Update (5:45 pm): 25 of the 33 trapped Chilean workers have successfully reached the surface in a rescue operation that may conclude roughly 24 hours after the first miner was rescued.

So far all of the miners are in satisfactory health. Health Minister Jaime MaƱalich
admitted however that seven survivors required "special care" in hospital for ailments including acute pneumonia.

Original Post:
The rescue efforts to free 33 Chilean workers trapped in an underground mine have been almost nonstop since the first miner was liberated late last night.

According to Chilean president Sebastian Pinera the operation has gone on smoothly and ahead of schedule. “As a country, we have so many problems to face (but) I’m sure we’ll be able to do it, just as we’ve taken on this rescue operation,” said Pinera in remarks to the press earlier today. His optimism was shared by mining minister Lawrence Golborne who moments ago expressed his hope that all of the workers could safely reach the surface by the early evening hours.

As of the original publishing of this post eighteen of the workers have made it to the surface after being stuck over 600 meters in an underground shelter for nearly 70 days. Among those who have been freed thus far were:
  • Florencio Avalos who was the first miner to reach the surface at 1:00 am Chilean time;
  • Jimmy Sanchez and Mario Gomez, the youngest and oldest survivors (aged 19 and 63 respectively);
  • Mario Sepulveda, whose exuberance after emerging from the Fenix capsule earned him the nickname of "Super Mario" by Chilean newspaper El Mercurio;
  • Jose Ojeda, whose note that read "All 33 of us are safe in the shelter" was attached to a drill and found by rescuers on August 22nd;
  • Carlos Mamani, the lone non-Chilean worker who was offered a job and home for his family in his native Bolivia from President Evo Morales.
All the rescued workers appear to be in exceptional physical condition despite the immense difficulties of being trapped for so long underground. Yet health experts quoted in several newspapers warned that they could face psychological trauma and problems like respiratory illness and eye damage.

The rescue operation at the San Jose mine has captured the attention of international traditional sources as well as blogs and social networking sites. Perhaps the most interesting headline comes from Spain's El Mundo whose headline features black and white photos of the miners that are turned to color with each rescued worker.

The miners' plight has been used as a marketing opportunity for companies like a Greek mining firm that has offered free trips to Europe for the rescued miners. At least one idea made in August, the offer of one-years worth of free sushi, backfired and the company's president was forced to publicly apologize.

Online Sources - The Latin Americanist, LAHT, The Hindu, CBS News, New York Daily News, El Mundo, The Guardian
Image - CBS News ("Thirty-one year old Alex Vega became the tenth rescued miner at the site of the San Jose mine in Copiapo, Chile, on October 13, 2010.")

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