Rescue Completed As Last Chilean Miner Emerges

Incredible Ending To Story That Captivated The World

SAN JOSE MINE, Chile (AP/CBS 2/WCBS 880/1010 WINS) — The last of the Chilean miners, the foreman who held them together when they were feared lost, was raised from the depths of the earth Wednesday night — a joyous ending to a 69-day ordeal that riveted the world. No one has ever been trapped so long and survived.

Luis Urzua ascended smoothly through 2,000 feet of rock, completing a 22 1/2-hour rescue operation that unfolded with remarkable speed and flawless execution. Before a crowd of about 2,000 people, he became the 33rd miner to be rescued.

PHOTO GALLERY:Miners Rescued In Chile
LISTEN:WCBS 880’s Mike Xirinachs with reaction on Long Island
LISTEN:1010 WINS’ Steve Sandberg in North Bergen, NJ

The rescue workers who talked the men through the final hours still had to be hoisted to the surface.

When Urzua stepped out of the capsule, he hugged Chilean President Sebastian Pinera and shook hands with him and said they had prevailed over difficult circumstances. With the last miner by his side, the president led the crowd in singing the national anthem.

Among the 15,000 Chileans in the Tri-State Area witnessing the amazing event going on back home were those gathered at the Chilean restaurant “Pomaire,” on West 46th in the Theatre District and across the river in North Bergen, New Jersey, at the Chilean bakery “Los Andes.”

“To save these 33 people, you know, is amazing. I think this is going to be… it’s going to change our community,” Manuel Urriola or North Bergen told CBS 2’s Pablo Guzman.

An observation made by some at the North Bergen bakery was the the event would be something Chileans could build on moving forward.

“We’re making history right now…just thinking and watching what I saw on TV,” an emotional Juan Carlos Carmona said.

When asked why the entire situation brought him to tears, Carmona said there was “a lot of life that can be saved…there’s always hope, you never have to give up.”

“It’s extremely emotional, but at the same, very happy that everything is finishing very good,” Carlos Konig told CBS 2’s Hazel Sanchez at the Pomaire restaurant.

“We are praising God. It’s very emotional, very touching,” Francisco Sepulbeda said.

Chilean Americans at Pomaire also spoke to 1010 WINS’ Al Jones following the completion of the rescue.

“Oh my gosh, I’m so proud of my country…and I’m want to scream [to] everybody in New York, ‘I’m from Chile,'” one woman said.

“We celebrate because they are alive and they came out with a good spirit,” another man said.

One by one throughout the day, the men had emerged to the cheers of exuberant Chileans and before the eyes of a transfixed globe. The operation picked up speed as the day went on, but each miner was greeted with the same boisterous applause from rescuers.

“Welcome to life,” Pinera told Victor Segvia, the 15th miner out. On a day of superlatives, it seemed no overstatement.

They rejoined a world intensely curious about their ordeal, and certain to offer fame and jobs. Previously unimaginable riches awaited men who had risked their lives going into the unstable gold and copper mine for about $1,600 a month.

The miners made the smooth ascent inside a capsule called Phoenix — 13 feet tall, barely wider than their shoulders and painted in the white, blue and red of the Chilean flag. It had a door that stuck occasionally, and some wheels had to be replaced, but it worked exactly as planned.

Beginning at midnight Tuesday, and sometimes as quickly as every 25 minutes, the pod was lowered the nearly half-mile to where 700,000 tons of rock collapsed Aug. 5 and entombed the men.

Then, after a quick pep talk from rescue workers who had descended into the mine, a miner would strap himself in, make the journey upward and emerge from a manhole into the blinding sun.

The rescue was planned with extreme care. The miners were monitored by video on the way up for any sign of panic. They had oxygen masks, dark glasses to protect their eyes from the unfamiliar sunlight and sweaters for the jarring transition from subterranean swelter to chilly desert air.

As they neared the surface, a camera attached to the top of the capsule showed a brilliant white piercing the darkness not unlike what accident survivors describe when they have near-death experiences.

Many of the miners looked remarkably healthy, but they faced a number of medical challenges, CBS 2’s Dr. Holly Phillips reported.

Their weakened immune systems could make them vulnerable to viruses and doctors will be looking for signs of infection in the lungs.

Dr. Gabe Wilson of St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital said the miners would likely “get a chest x-ray to make sure there are no lesions in the lungs from breathing all these particles for such a long time.”

Doctors will also check the miners’ kidney function and overall blood counts. The miners will also have to wear protective glasses for several days until their eyes can adjust to the light.

Phillips reported that the biggest challenge may come from post traumatic stress syndrome.

Psychologists will look for symptoms like nightmares, panic attacks, anxiety and claustrophobia.

The men will meet with counselors who will have them verbally re-live the experience.

“Although it’s a natural process to avoid something that is traumatic for us, we’re far better off to find ways to approach it so we work through those anxieties,” Dr. Jeffrey Janata of University Hospitals Case Medical Center said.

Several thrust their fists upwards like prizefighters, and Mario Sepulveda, the second to taste freedom, bounded out and led his rescuers in a rousing cheer. Franklin Lobos, who played for the Chilean national soccer team in the 1980s, briefly bounced a soccer ball on his foot and knee.

“We have prayed to San Lorenzo, the patron saint of miners, and to many other saints so that my brothers Florencio and Renan would come out of the mine all right. It is as if they had been born again,” said Priscila Avalos. One of her brothers was the first miner rescued, and the other was due out later in the evening.

Health Minister Jaime Manalich said some of the miners probably will be able to leave the hospital Thursday — earlier than projected — but many had been unable to sleep, wanted to talk with families and were anxious. One was treated for pneumonia, and two needed dental work.

“They are not ready to have a moment’s rest until the last of their colleagues is out,” he said.

As it traveled down and up, down and up, the rescue capsule was not rotating as much inside the 2,041-foot escape shaft as officials expected, allowing for faster trips.

The first man out was Florencio Avalos, who emerged from the missile-like chamber and hugged his sobbing 7-year-old son, his wife and the Chilean president.

No one in recorded history has survived as long trapped underground. For the first 17 days, no one even knew whether they were alive. In the weeks that followed, the world was captivated by their endurance and unity.

Chile exploded in joy and relief when the rescue began just after midnight in the coastal Atacama desert. Car horns sounded in Santiago, the Chilean capital, and school was canceled in the nearby town of Copiapo, where 24 of the miners live.

News channels from North America to Europe and the Middle East carried live coverage. Pope Benedict XVI said in Spanish that he “continues with hope to entrust to God’s goodness” the fate of the men. Iran’s state English-language Press TV followed events live for a time. Crews from Russia and Japan and North Korean state TV were at the mine.

The images beamed to the world were extraordinary: Grainy footage from beneath the earth showed each miner climbing into capsule, then disappearing upward through an opening. Then a camera showed the pod steadily rising through the dark, smooth-walled tunnel.

Among the first rescued was the youngest miner, Jimmy Sanchez, at 19 the father of a months-old baby. Two hours later came the oldest, Mario Gomez, 63, who suffers from a lung disease common to miners and had been on antibiotics inside the mine. He dropped to his knees after he emerged, bowed his head in prayer and clutched the Chilean flag.

Gomez’s wife, Lilianett Ramirez, pulled him up from the ground and embraced him. The couple had talked over video chat once a week, and she said that he had repeated the promise he made to her in his initial letter from inside the mine: He would marry her properly in a church wedding, followed by the honeymoon they never had.

The lone foreigner among them, Carlos Mamani of Bolivia, was visited at a nearby clinic by Pinera and Bolivian President Evo Morales. The miner could be heard telling the Chilean president how nice it was to breathe fresh air and see the stars.

Most of the men emerged clean-shaven. More than 300 people at the mine alone had worked on the rescue or to sustain them during their long wait by lowering rocket-shaped tubes dubbed “palomas,” Spanish for carrier pigeons. Along with the food and medicine came razors and shaving cream.

Estimates for the rescue operation alone have soared beyond $22 million, though the government has repeatedly insisted that money is not a concern.

The men emerged in good health. But at the hospital in Copiapo, where miner after miner walked from the ambulance to a waiting wheelchair, it became clear that psychological issues would be as important to treat as physical ones.

Dr. Guillermo Swett said Sepulveda told him about an internal “fight with the devil” that he had inside the mine. He said Sanchez appeared to be having a hard time adjusting, and seemed depressed.

“He spoke very little and didn’t seem to connect,” the doctor said.

The entire rescue operation was meticulously choreographed. No expense was spared in bringing in topflight drillers and equipment — and boring three separate holes into the copper and gold mine. Only one has been finished — the one through which the miners exited.

Mining is Chile’s lifeblood, providing 40 percent of state earnings, and Pinera put his mining minister and the operations chief of state-owned Codelco, the country’s biggest company, in charge of the rescue.

It went so well that its managers abandoned a plan to restrict images of the rescue. A huge Chilean flag that was to obscure the hole from view was moved aside so the hundreds of cameras perched on a hill above could record images that state TV also fed live.

That included the surreal moment when the capsule dropped for the first time into the chamber, where the bare-chested miners, most stripped down to shorts because of the underground heat, mobbed the rescuer who emerged to serve as their guide to freedom.

“This rescue operation has been so marvelous, so clean, so emotional that there was no reason not to allow the eyes of the world — which have been watching this operation so closely — to see it,” a a beaming Pinera told a news conference after the first miner safely surfaced.

The miners’ vital signs were closely monitored throughout the ride. They were given a high-calorie liquid diet donated by NASA, designed to prevent nausea from any rotation of the capsule as it travels through curves in the 28-inch-diameter escape hole.

Engineers inserted steel piping at the top of the shaft, which is angled 11 degrees off vertical before plunging like a waterfall. Drillers had to curve the shaft to pass through “virgin” rock, narrowly avoiding collapsed areas and underground open spaces in the overexploited mine, which had operated since 1885.

U.S. President Barack Obama said the rescue had “inspired the world.” The crews included many Americans, including a driller operator from Denver and a team from Center Rock Inc. of Berlin, Pa., that built and managed the piston-driven hammers that pounded the hole through rock laced with quartzite, some of the hardest and most abrasive rock.

Chile has promised that its care of the miners won’t end for six months at least — not until they can be sure that each man has readjusted.

Psychiatrists and other experts in surviving extreme situations predict their lives will be anything but normal. Since Aug. 22, when a narrow bore hole broke through to their refuge and the miners stunned the world with a note, scrawled in red ink, disclosing their survival, their families have been exposed in ways they never imagined.

Miners had to describe their physical and mental health in detail with teams of doctors and psychologists. In some cases, when both wives and lovers claimed the same man, everyone involved had to face the consequences.

As trying as their time underground was, the miners now face challenges so bewildering that no amount of coaching can fully prepare them. Rejoining a world intensely curious about their ordeal, they have been invited to presidential palaces, to take all-expenses-paid vacations and to appear on countless TV shows. Book and movie deals are pending, along with job offers.

Sepulveda’s performance exiting from the shaft appeared to confirm what many Chileans thought when they saw his engaging performances in videos sent up from below — that he could have a future as a TV personality.

But he tried to quash the idea as he spoke to viewers of Chile’s state television channel while sitting with his wife and children shortly after his rescue.

“The only thing I’ll ask of you is that you don’t treat me as an artist or a journalist, but as a miner,” he said. “I was born a miner and I’ll die a miner.”

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

 

More from Mike Xirinachs
Comments

One Comment

  1. Kingsley Ngosa says:

    It’s a miracle to have survived that long underground! We praise the almighty GOD creator for being with the miners.

  2. george says:

    Thanks God everything completed so smoothly and all the miners and rescue workers are safe and sound!!!

  3. george says:

    it is God of the bible-the Lord Jesus Christ who allowed the miners to be rescued alive. If it were not by His intervening -wonderful grace for them,they would have been trapped forever without any remedy and perished in suffocation and hunger. Let all glory and praise be given to God! This is all His wonderful workings-who can deny it?

  4. YAKOBO TAJIRI says:

    THAT WAS A GREAT SHOW OF UNITY. GOD BLESS THE ORGANIZERS FOR THE COMMITMENT. WE CAN ALWAYS MAKE IT IF WE DO NOT LOSE HEART.

  5. european says:

    Bloody good job, people. Congratulations and well done.

  6. JACOB SACKEY says:

    IN THE LION’S DEN GOD PROTECTED AND DELIVERED DANIEL, IN THE FIERY FURNACE OF FIRE, GOD PROTECTED AND DELIVERED THE THREE JEWISH BOYS. TODAY HE HAS EXTENDED THIS SAME MIRACLE TO OUR CHILEAN BROTHERS. OUR GOD IS FAITHFUL. YOUR OWN MIRACLE IS ON THE WAY, DON’T GIVE UP

  7. jingle says:

    First let us all thank God for keeping the miners alive and the rescuers as well who unselfishly gave their resources, time and effort to save the lives of the 33 miners. If only every citizen of this world will unite to save lives as what the rescuers did, instead of doing suicide attacks to kill hundreds if not thousands of people THEN THIS WORLD WILL BE A BETTER PLACE TO LIVE

  8. barbara says:

    I watched this amazing rescue from Sri Lanka. Bravo Chile. Bravo a fantastic President who showed the world what leadership in a crisis means. Bravo the Chilean Nation who showed strength and fortiture. These miners were Giants amongst men.
    Thankyou God for their lives

  9. ricardo says:

    What will you do with an open hole.? It’s too dangerous if some people fall there..Hope my child will not go there.

  10. Jay says:

    Praise the Lord for these amazing people ! What an emotional and great event for us humanity. The Lord is good !

  11. SAMSON says:

    IF EVERY ONE COULD WORK LIKE THESE RESCUERS THE WORLD COULD BE AVERY GOOD PLACE TO LIVE IN.MERCI MERCI MERCI CHILEANS.

  12. ELDER SAM ENOMINYI says:

    Man has gone to SPACE which is good and challenging. I consider the rescuing of these hitherto endangered lives greater because life belongs to GOD.

  13. Mathias says:

    Can the whole world drop their ammunition and war weapons and starts to safe life now? Please let us learn from Chile. CONGRATULATIONS CHILE.

  14. udo says:

    It’s more thsn winning the world cup for Chile.It’s the kind of news that really makes you love life more

  15. Racheal Mutaawe says:

    I equally add my voice to those who have written in before & extend my appreciate to the & thank God and the selfless chile rescuers who worked tirelessly to save the miners lives. Thank you so much, God bless Chile as a nation. Ugandans celebrate with you. Racheal

  16. Dorine says:

    My God is great. He took care of the miners and their families. Chile’s President is great. He cares for his people. Let other Presidents learn from him. Thanks God. bravo the Miners. You great too.

  17. Samuel Kolade says:

    The Chileans deserve all the jubilations after all the persevering efforts at bringing the miners to safety. These efforts had been richly rewarded. God bless Chile and her subjects. My special congrats to the Chilean President

  18. JACOB ADDEY says:

    WITH GOD EVERY THING IS POSSIBLE AND WITH FAITH AND PRAY THE IS HOPE., THANK GOD AND THE MINERS AND THE RESCUE TEAM FOR ALL THEY HAVE DONE TO MAKE CHILE A PROUD COUNTRY, I WAS WATCHING BBC IN MY HOME AND I WAS FULL WITH TEARS AS THE MINERS WERE BEEN ASCEND FROM WHT I CALL DEEP DIP I AM FROM GHANA AND I REALLY LOVE ALL THE 33MINERS AND MY GOD BLESS U ALL, LOVE THE PRESIDENT AND HIS WIFE FOR THE LOVE AND CARE THE HAVE SHOW TO THE NATION.

  19. john umukoro says:

    To God be the Glory for great and wondrous things He has done.With unity of purpose, the world can be a better place for all to be in instead of suicidal bombings and the productions of weapons of mass destruct ions.

  20. Peter says:

    May the name of the Most High God be praised for ever and ever, Amen.

  21. Harris says:

    This is indeed a miracle. Thanks be to God for saving their lives.

  22. rommel says:

    bravo chile…. for the job will done…..

  23. Selvaratnam says:

    At last someone or some people had really valued the human life above all. Thank GOD! Congratulations to all the people involved in the mission.

  24. kaamu says:

    Allahu Akbar ! Allahu Akbar ! Allahu Akbar Wali Llahi Hamd ! (Arabic)
    God Is Great ! God Is Great ! God Is Great and to HIM is Thanks! (English)

  25. Naledi says:

    Thanks to God for giving rescues men power to save those 33 men of Chile mine, we congratulate them in the name of Lord, Thank you Lord.

  26. Almaz Ejerso says:

    Thanks to God for giving such knowledge for human being. Congratulations!

  27. William Newland says:

    To God be all the glory for the salvation of 33 men from the bowls of the earth.It could have been their grave , but as Jonah was saved from out the belly of the whale, so were they saved from the belly of the earth

  28. Jagjit Singh says:

    What role NASA played in this rescue? Perhaps they need to be thanked too.

  29. Tricia says:

    Thank God they are well and alive…a much prayed for ending. It’s wonderful.

  30. claudia says:

    Thanks to God! If we just view ourselves as flesh and brains, then we are not connecting with our true selves, our immortal soul that is from the Creator. When we realize this, and give up our ego, than we can survive anything. I am sure many of the miners understand this.

  31. Mel says:

    J, Please shut your pie hole. All praisese belong to GOD for keeping these men!

  32. Eileen says:

    Yes, I agree with you! I also thought of Psalm 40:1-3 that would apply to all of them. God bless you!

  33. Tony says:

    You have done a fantastic job of coverage on this. Thanks very much

  34. Hal says:

    All Praises to GOD who watched over the trapped Miner and their families while they were going through the sad moment in their lives Thank You GOD

Comments are closed.

More From CBS New York

BUY TICKETS NOW
Get Our Morning Briefs

Listen Live