Chile:Out from the depths of the earth

The rescue of 33 miners of Chile (one is from Bolivia) who had been trapped almost 700 meters down under the surface for 69 days is a story of strong will, remarkable love and respect for life of each man coming out from the depths of the earth to the cheers of their families and the whole world.

Determined Chile President Sebastian Piniera and First Lady Cecilia Morel, together with the committed Ministers of Energy and Health, and skillful rescuers remained in Camp Hope for almost 24 hours to give each miner bear hugs and congratulatory words in a dramatic rescue never seen in human history. They never left the site until the sixth rescuer Manuel  Gonzales , the first to go down and the last to get out, was on the surface. In his report  to the President, he said:  “ Mission accomplished. Your order is done. The 33 miners and the rescuers are safe.”

The question now that comes to mind is this: Can the Philippines do such heroic rescue should a crisis of this magnitude happen in the country’s mining pits?

A few Filipino miners were able to come out alive – on different incidents – while thousands have died in Mt. Diwalwal or Benguet’s mining pits in the history of Philippine mining industry, news reports said.

Two miners were trapped in Mt. Diwalwal in Moncayo, Compostela Valley in the south on March 2008. They never made it through and were added to statistics of unknown miners who may have perished while torrential rains flood the mines.

Up north, Mt. Itogon in Benguet has buried in its cavernous maw hundreds of poor miners on different dates.  Trickles were reported to have escaped drowning most of the time while others never found their way out. Some five out of 14 were found alive on 29 September 2008.  But three out of 20 miners drowned on 30 March 2010.

Chileans’ handling of this national crisis was planned and organized that the promised rescue operation in December this year actually was executed two months ahead of schedule.

Nothing beats the tenacity, firmness (“sometimes bossy”) and calm demeanor of the 54 year-old Luis Urzua, the miners’ leader, whom the rescued miners call ‘boss”.  He divided the 32 men into three shifts to make them busy looking for possible escape route, cleaning their small space, drawing maps and keeping their sanity.  He instructed each miner to eat only one teaspoon of tuna every 48 hours to stretch the 22 cans of tuna they had for 17 days until they were discovered alive on the 18th day and help came down through a small hole where one bottled mineral water can only fit one at a time.

He also refused to be rescued first saying he will stay until the last miner in his team is saved. He never abandoned his ship. “I hope this does not happen again,”he said composed.

Letters of love from wives, girlfriends, parents and children had kept their hopes burning throughout the ordeal.

This is such a beautiful story of never-ending hope of humanity; a story of faith that will never be forgotten in history.

It is high time we learn from Chile.


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