Friday 28 July 2017

Greatest horror of mankind is to be buried alive

Brian Keenan was a hostage in Beirut for more than four years -- much of it in pitch darkness. He describes the pressures that the 33 Chilean miners are likely facing in their own ordeal

Brian Keenan with his sisters after being released from captivity in the Lebanon in August 1990
Brian Keenan with his sisters after being released from captivity in the Lebanon in August 1990

By one of life's terrible coincidences, Tuesday was the 20th anniversary of my release from captivity. I woke screaming from the most horrible dream I have had for about 15 of those years -- only to learn of another nightmare, that of the men trapped alive in the Chilean mine.

My first reaction was that I didn't want to think of so many of them crushed into a tiny space. The greatest horror of mankind is to be buried alive. The 33 miners trapped 700 metres underground know they have millions of tonnes of collapsed rock on top of them. With the prospect of rescue uncertain, they will be under unimaginable psychological pressure.

Their numbers scare me, too. So many men in a hot, humid insanitary hole means that the inevitable psychological breakdowns will come with different intensities at different times. Their emergency shelter could become a cauldron of despair, and despair is a contagion that gets out of control no matter how determined, or stubborn, you may be.

Please sign in or register with Independent.ie for free access to Opinions.

Sign In

Don't Miss