Thursday, October 14, 2010

Story of the Chilean Miners

On  August 5th,2010, 33 miners were trapped in a mine due to a wall collapse in San Jose,Chile. All of them were feared dead since, incidents like this have a knack of ending on the wrong side. Rescue workers started searching for signs of life almost immediately but a fresh collapse on August 7th forced them to temporarily suspend work. Then, on August 9th, the Chilean president appealed to Peru,USA and Canada to provide them the technology(if any) and expertise required to help rescue the trapped miners. NASA took the baton and willingly gave them the technical expertise they needed.

The first break-through came a full 17 days after the collapse through relentless work from the Chilean rescue team as well as NASA. It was 'hope' that kept them going. On August, 22nd, they finished drilling a hole to the closest miner's chamber more than 2000 feet below the earth's crust. All of the 33 miners were alive and the world rejoiced. It was almost a miracle because these 33 miners managed to survive 17 days!! on food meant for 48 hours and a pint of water.

 Though the world rejoiced, the rescue team was still at full steam. They knew that they still had to rescue them. Through the 2000ft long hole that they'd drilled, they started sending emergency supplies to them. It took the rescue team 7 days, to plan the rescue mission. Finally, on the 30th of August, the rescue team started preliminary work to free the miners. A 31 ton drill bore a 'pilot hole' through 50 feet of solid rock. Later, the drill was fitted with larger bits in an attempt to expand the hole.
  Initial reports suggested that the rescue mission would take atleast 6 months. This one bit of news was conveniently hidden from the miners and I second that decision. Spending 6 months underground with tons and tons of rock over your head that can fall anytime isn't exactly a nice thought to have.

 The whole of September was spent on creating, devising and executing plans to rescue the miners.

The first 11 days of October too passed in similar fashion until.....

October 12th.
The rescuers started the final phase of the operation. The very last stage. An escape capsule named "Fenix" was sent to the miner's chamber through the hole that was drilled. The capsule was sent down to the miner's chamber and one-by-one the miners started coming up from the clutches of the 'underworld'. All of the 33 miners came up in the next 22 hours and once the last miner was out, very much alive and kicking, the whole world erupted in joy and tears happy that one of their kind had been saved. That's pure humanity and even I felt a tingle of joy in my heart when I saw that moment.

   To me, this rescue attempt looked similar to the one in India, when some boy called 'prince' fell into an empty borewell and then there was this big rescue attempt by the army to bring him back to the surface.However, the rescue attempt in Chile was far more 'sophisticated' than the Indian and one and far more lives were at stake.

   Some Americans contrasted it with the Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill, stating that the American government must learn something from this rescue attempt, how the Chileans have shown the world what leadership and crisis management is all about.

   However, personally I was simply amazed by this story. I admire the resilience,courage,determination and presence of mind these miners have shown.I can hardly think of being trapped for a day without access to anything leave alone 2 months.I find myself agreeing with one miner who had said " I have been with God and Devil".

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