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Lives of Chilean miners changed by celebrity status

 Reuters 18 October 2019

One became a father during his captivity deep inside an Andean mine. Another returned to the surface with a book draft. A third was met by his mistress while his wife stayed home. (1148 Words) - By Hugh Bronstein and


Reuters_Lives of Chilean miners changed by celebrity status

 Bolivian miner Carlos Mamani waves as he is driven away from Copiapo Hospital after doctors released him and two others who spent 69 days trapped inside the San Jose mine, in Copiapo. REUTERS/Stringer

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Before their mine collapsed, trapping them half a mile underground for 69 days, the miners freed on Wednesday were unknown workers toiling in the rock below a Chilean desert.

Now they are national heroes and global media stars, their private lives in the public limelight.

Their amazing rescue -- each hoisted in a one-man capsule through a narrow escape shaft drilled through 2,050 feet of rock -- was broadcast live and watched by millions around the world. 1,500 journalists reported from the scene.

During his weeks trapped below ground, Victor Segovia, the writer in the group, wrote dozens of pages of what could be his first book, prompting interest among publishers.

"This is a book that would obviously generate a lot of interest," said Paul Bresnick, a New York literary agent.

"Now, how do I get in touch with him?" Bresnick asked.

Ariel Ticona, who is scheduled to be pulled out second to last on Wednesday night, became the father of newborn daughter, Esperanza, or "Hope," earlier this month. Chile is waiting for the first images of father, wife and daughter together.

But it was Johnny Barrios, 50, who attracted the most attention. The miner had left two women on the surface: his estranged wife and his live-in girlfriend. The public wondered which if either would be there to give him a hero's welcome.

Rescued on Wednesday, Barrios was greeted by his girlfriend, a blond-haired woman who hugged him tightly when he emerged from the escape shaft.

In the case of Bolivian Carlos Mamani, the only non-Chilean national among the 33 trapped miners, it was his country's President Evo Morales who came to greet him.

Morales said the flawless rescue operation helped build confidence between Chile and Bolivia, neighbors locked in a long-standing border dispute about access to the Pacific.

The first worker to be pulled up in the tight-fitting capsule was 31-year-old Florencio Avalos, who emerged looking surprisingly healthy after two months of near darkness.

The second was Mario Sepulveda, whose shouts of joy were heard echoing up the shaft before his arrival. Once out of the capsule -- painted red, blue and white, like the Chilean flag -- he punched the air, dropped a yellow bag on the ground, reached in and started handing out souvenir rocks.

Omar Reygadas, who at 56 was among the oldest in the group, draped himself in the flag of his soccer club Colo-Colo for the short ride to the surface, freedom and fame.

It was the third time Reygadas had been trapped in a mine, but his family doubts he will give up his passion for working underground.



After more than two months trapped in a collapsed copper and gold mine in the desert, all of 33 Chilean miners were pulled to safety on Wednesday up an escape shaft barely wider than a man's shoulders.

With ingenuity and cutting-edge technology, the men have survived for 68 days some 2,050 feet underground fending off hunger, anxiety and illness in a record-setting feat of survival.


From the August 5 cave-in until they established contact with the surface 17 days later, the miners rationed themselves to two spoonfuls of tuna, half a cookie and a half-full glass of milk every 48 hours.

Once rescuers on the surface discovered the men with a narrow perforation drill, they began sending them hydration gel, soup and medication in narrow plastic tubes called "doves."

Later, doctors transitioned the men to a solid diet including meat and rice, with a strict 2,200 calorie diet to keep them slim enough to fit in the evacuation shaft just two feet in diameter.

In the tunnel near the shelter where the men initially took refuge, they set up a chemical toilet and latrines, along with a duct providing potable water.


The first sign of life from the miners came on August 22, when knocking was heard on a drill head as it reached the depths of the mine. Rescuers withdrew the drill to find a note attached reading, "The 33 of us in the shelter are well."

Once the first bore hole established a lifeline to the men, letters began to pass between loved ones via the "doves." Later came a fiber optic line enabling phone calls and videoconferencing.

Doctors were also able to pass down a biometric belt which allowed the miners to monitor and transmit their vital signs to the surface using wireless technology.


Once they were discovered, the men quickly established a regular meal schedule including breakfast, lunch, dinner and an afternoon tea.

Supported by a 500 watt power line, they installed lights to simulate day and night to diminish the impact of their eventual return to the surface.

Physiologists set up obligatory exercise schedules to keep the men fit for their trying passage up the escape shaft, when they may have to hold the same posture for as much as an hour.

In recent weeks, the miners began to help with the drilling process, taking shifts to clear away debris that fell into the tunnel of the mine.


Several of the men are football fanatics and one has even played professionally, so despite their isolation they managed to install a live feed of games like Chile's friendly match against Ukraine to watch using a small projector.

They have also received videos of football greats like Pele and Maradona and set up an area of their refuge for a small "casino" where they play cards, dominoes and dice games.

In recent weeks psychologists on the surface gave permission for them to get recent editions of national newspapers.

The miners have also received small music players and speakers as well as Bibles and rosaries blessed by Pope Benedict.

The smokers have made do with patches and nicotine gum.

One of the miners' most relished gifts was a small high-definition video camera with which they've recorded a large part of their ordeal. Despite the hazards they confront, the men have maintained high spirits and the most distinguished humorists among them have dispatched eight hours of their favourite jokes on film.

© Reuters.

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