In what only can be described as a tribute to modern technology and the unbreakable nature of the human spirit, all 33 miners trapped nearly one-half mile underground in a mine in northern Chile have been rescued.
The last miner rescued, Luis Alberto Urzua Iribarren, was the shift foreman and was credited with rationing the two days’ worth of food miners had with them and making it last until rescuers discovered them following the mine collapse on Aug. 5.
His voice was the first voice heard by rescuers following the collapse. “We are well and hoping that you will rescue us,” he told them. Little did he know that it would be 69 days before he would see his family. He was greeted by his wife around 9 pm Eastern time on Oct. 13.
“We join the rest of the world in celebrating the most successful rescue in mining history,” said MSHA Assistant Secretary Joseph A. Main. “On behalf of the many Americans who provided support for the mission and prayers for the miners, we offer sincere words of praise to the rescue team for its well-coordinated operation. We in the mine rescue community will study and learn from this highly successful experience, with the hope that we'll never need to employ its valuable lessons.”
Main went on to say the miners themselves deserve a great deal of credit for their survival skills, “not only during the initial 17 days when their fate was uncertain, but throughout the entire 69-day ordeal. They have made their fellow miners proud, and the world now knows what many of us have known all along – that miners are truly a special kind of people.”
Most of the miners were in surprisingly good health and spirits when they were lifted to the surface, and most have been released from the hospital where they were taken for observation and treatment for illnesses ranging from an ulcerated retina to pneumonia to skin conditions related to the humid mine conditions.
Doctors warned that the miners might suffer some long-term health effects related to the lack of sunlight and poor nutrition, and possibly experienced post-traumatic stress syndrome from their experience.
Miracle Miners Ascending to the Surface of Chilean Mine One by One
Many thought this day would never come: 33 miners trapped 2,300 feet underground in a Chilean mine since August 5 are beginning to make their way to the surface. By this time tomorrow, barring any unforeseen delays, all of the trapped miners should be back with their families.