Friday 23 February 2018

Miners out of food for 72 hours before contact

As parties begin, details emerge about worst days of ordeal

Philip Sherwell in Copiapo

For the men of the San Jose mine, the longest shift in history ended amid a flurry of street parties and barbecues this weekend.

More than 10 weeks after they had headed half a mile underground for a regular workday beneath the Atacama Desert in northern Chile, all but two of "Los 33" finally headed home from hospital following a rescue mission that has gripped the world.

In a dusty fly-blown barrio of the mining city of Copiapo, family and friends strung yellow plastic bags in place of balloons (which they couldn't afford) across the street, and sprayed shaving cream to celebrate the return of the oldest survivor, 63-year-old Mario Gomez. "I'm ready to retire now," said Mr Gomez, who first went down a mine at 12, lost three fingers in a previous underground accident, and is now suffering from a serious lung infection. "We are not heroes, we're just ordinary men who are grateful to be alive."

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