Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Dramatic Rescue of 33 Miners in Chile

Mission Accomplished

In San Jose, near Copiapo, Chile, 70 days ago 33 miners were trapped 700 underground due to the collapse of a mine rich in copper and gold. All the entrances to mine were closed, there was no way of taking them out without creating a pipe well 700 meter deep which explains the delay in rescue mission. People all over the world were anxious and curious about the miners' plight and their families were traumatized by their ordeal. A capsule looks like a mini satellite was made which is used to rescue the miners, was expected to take 40 minutes to go down the 700 metres (over 2100 feet) and 20 minutes to move to the top. The operation has actually moved much faster and is ahead of schedule. Miners in the capsule have two way communication, are given an oxygen mask and the capsule contains a video camera to monitor for any panic attacks. The miners wear a special compression suit, which serves to protect them from pressure changes as well as a temperature shift from 90 degrees F (30c) underground and temperatures near freezing at the surface.

Finally, the mission started becoming a reality it was covered by about 1,500 reporters from 39 countries and witnessed live by thousands and watched by millions. It was an unprecedented mission close to completion. Cheers rang out at 11:11 am ET when the first miner, Florencio Avalos became the first miner to be rescued. The men being pulled from the collapsed mine in an escape capsule met by Chile's president, Sebastian, family members and medical and other personnel involved in the dramatic effort. It was the longest anyone has ever been trapped underground.

Since the rescue operation began there has been a miner rescued every hour and by mid night of 13 October 29 miners have been pulled out. The last miner has been selected to leave the mine, shift foreman Luis Urzua. Urzua's leadership is credited with helping the miners survive the first 17 days, without contact with the outside world. Had this been India perhaps the foreman would be fist to be rescued and our Prime-Minister Manmohan Singh would be in Oxford or Washington DC pleasing his colonial masters.

This reminds me of reading an article about China’s schooling system in 1970s in a UN Magazine called Internationalist. While lecturing to his pupil a teacher had bottle in his hand with many little people telling them that it was a coal mine with many workers in it. Then he started slowly pumping water in the bottle by a tube saying suddenly mine started flooding and rescue started. The mouth of the bottle was compared with an exit of the mine which was so small that at a time only one person could get out. Slowly all workers were rescued but two how got stuck at exit and could not get out simultaneously and water was in the mine was continuously rising. Then one of the two stuck people one said, “You go first”. The teacher asked his little pupil who was the person who let the other go first. Pupil answered he was a soldier of the Eighth Route Army. I believe Luis Urzua had the spirit of the soldier of the Eighth Route Army.


On 17 October 1987 a little girl better known as "Baby Jessica", is now a grown woman of 23 with a son of her own, was rescued from a Pipe Well. The woman who will always be “Baby Jessica” looked for the first time at the pipe that for nearly 59 hours had been her tomb almost 23 years ago. When she went to visit her historical 'tomb' she kicked at the steel cap that has been sealed to the top, like a prospective buyer kicking the tires of a car. In fact she had no memory of the incident until, she was 5 when she was watching an episode of “Rescue 911” about a little girl trapped in a well and was moved to tears by it.

Jessica still carries a most visible diagonal scar on her forehead as a result of her ordeal. Her forehead had been rubbed raw against the well casing during the 2 ½ days she was trapped, while scores of rescuers drilled a parallel tunnel and connecting shaft through solid rock to rescue her. Although the scar might be erased by plastic surgeons Jessica has decided to keep it by saying, “It shows who I am, and the fact that I am here and that I could have not been here,” she told a reporter. She is still called "Baby Jessica' and continues to remain everyone's baby.

A somewhat similar story of rescue mission was reported by USA Today 26 March 2008 about a girl trapped in a well. Soldiers, police and other rescuers spent much of Wednesday trying to pull the 2-year-old girl, identified only as Vandana, from a man-made 45 feet deep well in a village near Agra, the site of the famous Taj Mahal. Rescuers used heavy earth-moving equipment to help get the child out. They also played music into the hole to help soothe the child, who fell into the well Tuesday night. The crowd of hundreds of people who gathered near the scene could be seen surging forward as a man flanked by soldiers carried Vandana from the hole to a waiting ambulance.

"The girl looked dazed and started crying". She was rescued after 27 hours she was immediately handed over to paramedics and doctors. The CNN-IBN television station reported that the child was in good shape but being held overnight for observation at a nearby hospital.

After a year one month baby was rescued in Mumbai. It is amazing that a baby with no way of protecting itself, that doesn't know what has just happened to it & is so tiny & fragile has survived a building collapsing!!

However, this rescue mission was unique and involved plight of many people (a thought of canibalism occured, but became a joke latter) who have been rescued with technology which does not appear to be very sophisticated, but reflect the will of the people. It would be remembered for times to come.
Dr Suresh Deman

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