After 69 days underneath the earth, entombed and trapped, 33 miners surfaced the earth in Chile, 2,040 feet above. It ended the longest underground nightmare in the history of mankind. The flawless operation to rescue the trapped miners was met with cheers and celebration in the Chilean nation. People showed their support by greeting the survivors with their boisterous applause and prominent display of confetti, champaign, waving of the Chilean flag and chanting Chi! Chi! Chi! Le! Le! Le!. More than a billion people all throughout the world witnessed the history as it unfolds before their very eyes as the miners emerged one by one through a 23-inch diameter escape capsule called phoenix. News channels from North America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia including the Philippines carried live coverage of the rescue. It was truly phenomenal, absolutely amazing and exuberantly victorious turn of events. Unimaginable and unthinkable. A new history has taken place and will surely leave a permanent mark in the story of Chile and the world.
Much credit is given to the last man out Luis Urzua, who was very instrumental to the survival of the men. Serving as the leader of the group, Urzua imposed strict policies on their activities underground. Rationed everyone with only 2 spoonfuls of tuna and half a glass of milk every 48 hours during the first 17 days, Urzua managed to win the respect of the group and able to keep everyone calm until a lifeline was established on August 22 with the knocking on the walls heard by rescuers which was followed by a small note written in red ink which said, ” the 33 of us are well and we hope you rescue us”.
17 days after the August 5 collapse of the San Jose Gold and Copper Mines which left 33 miners locked up with 700,000 tons of rocks, the rescuers were able to supply provisions like food, water, medicines, a 500 wattage electrical light and even a television that enabled them to watch the famous friendly football match between Chile and Ukraine. The miners were also able to talk to their families via a telephone patch. They all agreed the first 17 days was the scariest part of the whole ordeal. With limited oxygen to breath and uncertainty in the dark, it was surely very scary.
Thanks to Billionaire turned politician – Chilean President Sebastian Pinera, for his determination to take the risk despite the popular belief that the men would have been dead, he pursued the rescue operation. President Pinera, who has only been in office for less than a year (March 2010) took a great risk in saving the lives of his people, the risk that would have been the cause of his downfall, had the rescue operation turned out to be a failure. All in all, about 12 other nations helped. An estimated $22 million have soared for the rescue operation.
All the men looked healthy and emerged clean shaven. Several of them thrust their fists upward like prizefighters. Mario Sepulveda, the second to taste freedom roused and led his rescuers in a cheer, while Franklin Lobos bounced a ball in his foot and knee. One even kneeled on the ground. Although a team of doctors will still have to check on their physical and mental conditions. After all, the hardest and most difficult part have been surpassed.
No one in recorded history has survived a long trapped underground. The world was captivated by the endurance and the unity of these miners. The rescue operation in general was marvelous and emotional. On the part of the rescuing team, it was meticulously planned as not to allow any mistakes. To the Chileans, congratulations and Cheers! You have made your country a name!