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Sunday 26 March 2017

Miners came to blows but swore to keep details secret

Rescued miner Carlos Mamani, from Bolivia, is surrounded by the press as he arrives at his home in Copiapo, Chile.
Rescued miner Carlos Mamani, from Bolivia, is surrounded by the press as he arrives at his home in Copiapo, Chile.

Fiona Govan in Copiapo

The rescued Chilean miners overcame violent disagreements to work as a team to survive, they have disclosed, as they celebrated their freedom and new status as national heroes.

The miners, who were given a clear bill of health and permitted to leave hospital, yesterday spoke of the horrors of the early days after the accident, before contact was made with the outside world.

The first accounts of life for the trapped miners hinted at a complicated period of squabbles, disagreements and even physical confrontations during those first dark days after the San Jose mine collapsed on August 5.

Fighting

The men had "separated into three groups because of fighting".

"There were fist fights," one miner said.

But the men are reported to have made a "blood pact" not to speak about the problems between them when they reached the surface. Instead they have agreed to talk about how they overcame problems in order to ensure their survival.

Franklin Lobos, a former professional footballer, said he and his fellow miners had acted like a great football team and pulled together to beat hunger, thirst and desperation underground.

"The really great teams are the really bonded ones. I didn't know many of the people I was working with when we were trapped, but when it happened, we pulled together and that was the most important thing," he said.

"We pulled together when things got rough, when there was nothing, when we needed to drink water and there wasn't any to drink. We pulled together when there was no food, when you just had to eat a teaspoon of tuna because there was nothing else. That really bonded us. I think it's what carried us through."

Dario Segovia, a 48 year-old drill operator, told relatives he would not reveal the truth of the ordeal. "What happens in the mine, stays in the mine."

The men were coming to terms with their new status as national heroes but one insisted "we are just ordinary people".

Edison Pena (34), who kept himself fit underground by running daily through the dark corridors of the mine, was among the first three men to be released from hospital late on Thursday night.

Crowds

Arriving home, still wearing the dark glasses to protect his eyes, he was greeted by crowds of locals and a throng of reporters and cameras.

"I'm well, really healthy," he said. "Thank you for believing that we were still alive. People's prayers gave us courage to keep going and not sit around waiting to be rescued. I never dreamt that all of this might have happened.

"I hope it will never happen again. It was really awful. I thought we weren't ever going to come out."

He said he was astonished by the size of the crowd. "We are not pop stars or anything, we're just ordinary people," he said.

"Los 33" as they have become known around the world have called in an accountant to manage their affairs after agreeing to divide all their earnings from interviews, media appearances, movies or books.

"More than anything, I think the idea is to charge for the rights to everything that's been shown about their personal life, of their odyssey," said Pablo Ramirez, a shift foreman at the gold and copper mine.

Donated

The men have had offers to travel around the world. A Greek mining company has donated holidays in the Aegean Islands. Football clubs in Madrid, Manchester and Buenos Aires have invited them. But the men said their priority was to reacquaint themselves with their families.

Juan Illanes (52), the third miner to rise in the Phoenix capsule, said: "I'm going to go home, sit at the table with my family, and eat a salmon sandwich."

The miners will attend a special Mass service at the Camp Hope site with their families tomorrow. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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