Trapped: Inside the Chilean Mine Collapse

VIDEO: Inside Miners Rescue

Chile's Atacama Desert is said to be the driest place on earth. For now though, the route to the San Jose mine, where 33 men have been trapped for over a month, is carpeted in a rare, lush spectacle: an explosion of purple flowers.

When you arrive at the entrance of the old copper mine you find a rescue operation being watched from around the world.

Around the clock, families of the trapped men sit vigil at the gate in area they call "Camp Hope," where they wait for news from below and advances in the rescue effort. Each family is now being given a chance to speak to and see trapped loved ones, via a new fiber optic video line that snakes down to where the men are trapped.

VIDEO: Inside Miners Rescue
Running Water, Electricity for Trapped Miners in Chile

"Daddy, how are you? I love you," said nine-year-old Arlen Yanez to her father Claudio, as she watched him and he watched her. "We are waiting for you."

"I love you lots too," replied Yanez, 2,300 feet below ground, inside the mine that collapsed around him and 32 other men on Aug. 5.

It took 17 days after the collapse for rescuers to discover that all of the trapped men were still alive. The Chilean government took over the rescue effort on the first day and has poured enormous resources into the operation.

There is no specialized equipment for underground rescue on this scale. Everything here is being improvised. Over the weekend, a convoy of 42 huge flatbed trucks -- many them used by the Chilean Army to move tanks -- carted in a massive drill rig normally used for oil wells.

VIDEO: Life Underground for Trapped Chilean Miners
Life Underground for Trapped Chilean Miners

Known as Plan C, it is the third rescue effort here. It is now being assembled and should be operating in about a week.

Plan A, up on the hillside, is a ventilation-shaft drill that has now bored a hole a third of the way down to the miners. Once the hole is complete, it must be widened widened to 26 inches.

And at the bottom of the hill is Plan B, a rig normally used to drill for water. It had made fast progress until its drill bit was shredded by metal in the old mine. The rig has been quiet for days as workers try remove the broken metal pieces with magnets and a claw. It is not easy. They may have remove the rig and drill a new hole.

Chilean Miners: The Long Hot Wait

The men trapped below take comfort from the sound of the drills overhead. Some say they are discouraged that there isn't more activity.

"They are listening (to) what is going on," said Laurence Golborne, Chile's minister of mines. "They know there are three different plans and some of them stop and continue on how the maintenance and problems like this happens."

Government officials keep emphasizing that the rescue is a marathon, not a sprint.

"We will have to wait and see,'' said Golborne. "All the three plans are scheduled to finish in November."

That means the men will have to endure another two months in the hot, humid, cramped conditions of the collapsed mine.

Support from Above

The only connection they have to the world above are two shafts that stretch a half-mile up to the surface.

They are small: just six inches across.

All supplies must be sent to them through a six-foot long tube known as a "paloma" -- Spanish for pigeon, as in carrier pigeon.

That means everything they need -- clothing, food, medicine, sleeping cots -- has to fit into a hole about four inches in diameter.

Comforts from Home

One of the first requests the men sent to the surface was for a television to watch soccer games.

  • 1
  • |
  • 2
  • |
  • 3
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...