Saturday 17 March 2018

Tears as miners finally speak to families break terrible silence

Relief as telephone calls

Guy Adams in San Diego

THEY barely had time to say "I love you", but after nearly four weeks apart, relatives of the 33 men who are trapped deep inside a Chilean mine have at last been given a chance to hear the sound of their loved ones' voices.

Families camped outside the collapsed mine in the Atacama Desert were each allowed to speak on the telephone with victims of the disaster late on Sunday. Since the connection on the long communication wire is precarious, conversations were limited to 30 seconds.

"There have been moments of great emotion," governor of the Atacama region Ximena Matas said. "[They] listened with great interest and they both felt and realised that the men are well."

The conversations brought at least some reassurance that the men, who learnt last week that they could remain underground until Christmas, are in a sufficiently robust state of mind to survive for the next three months.

Recordings of some of the calls were made public, including one in which 44-year-old miner Esteban Rojas promised that he would marry Jessica Ganiez, his girlfriend of 25 years, upon his rescue from the collapsed tunnel.

A new video was also released showing the men talking about how they are doing better since receiving food and clothing through three small pipes which were bored into the area where they are trapped, roughly half a mile below the surface.

They are topless because of the stifling heat, and are wearing surgical trousers sent down to help keep them dry and free from bacterial infections.

It could take up to four months to drill a 26in-wide hole from the surface to the chamber where the men are trapped.

Most are upbeat, expressing gratitude to their families and rescuers for the support they are receiving via handwritten notes sent through the three bore holes. Food, water, medicine and other goods are also sent to them through these holes.


But when it comes time to speak about their wives and children, many of the men break down. "I'm sending my greetings to Angelica. I love you so much, darling," says 30-year-old Osman Araya, as his voice chokes and he begins to cry. "Tell my mother, I love you guys so much. I will fight to the end to be with you."

Araya and 32 fellow miners were trapped on August 5 when the main shaft of the San Jose gold and silver mine in northern Chile collapsed. They only gained contact with the outside after 17 days, during which they rationed 48 hours' worth of food, and dug for water.

The latest video, in contrast to the first 45-minute video released, shows little of the men's surroundings. Instead, it appears meant as a video postcard for loved ones, as each of the 12 men who speak to the camera are given about 30 seconds to talk. At one point, the camera pans to a larger group of men, and several animated voices can be heard throughout.

The miners will have to help in their own escape by clearing thousands of tonnes of rock as a rescue hole is drilled toward them. (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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