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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    “Chile’s rescued miners in good health, hospital official says”

    COPIAPO, Chile — Just a day after 33 Chilean miners were freed from their underground prison, they were in good health overall, officials said Thursday, with some of the men set to be released from the hospital by the end of the day. As Chilean President Sebastian Pinera met with the hospitalized men, he stressed that measures would be taken to avoid future mine disasters.

    Late Wednesday, Chile freed the last of the men from half a mile below ground at the site of the collapsed San Jose mine. The miracle of a second chance at life was made real by the methodical shuttle of a battered red, white and blue rescue capsule willed on by a joyful nation and global audience of hundreds of millions.

    Pinera continued to speak with pride of the rescue Thursday.

    “”The rescue has given a new meaning to things being done ‘a la chilena,’ or the Chilean way,”” he said in a press conference after meeting with the 33 miners at Copiapo Regional Hospital. “”It now means to do something well, with dedication, with faith, to not leave it for tomorrow but with urgency, to bring together the best machinery and human resources.””

    The president added that an investigation into the causes of the disaster had been opened and that the government would try to pass the cost of the rescue, estimated at between $10 million and $20 million, to the mine owners. He said the cost was mitigated by “”generous donations”” from Chilean and international mining companies of equipment and personnel.

    Pinera also reiterated that he will “”in the next few days”” introduce a proposal to make sweeping changes in workplace rules to insure against “”insecure and inhumane conditions like those that existed at the San Jose mine.””

    Those measures would increase inspections and raise standards not just in mining but in farming, fishing, transportation and other industries.

    “”We’ll create a culture of respect for life,”” Pinera said.

    Much of the world had been transfixed by the rescue. Two thousand news reporters had crammed into the mining camp. The government used earthmovers to create parking spaces for the cars, campers and satellite trucks that converged on this desolate spot about 500 miles north of the Chilean capital, Santiago, to cover each rescue, one after the other, in what turned out to be a seamless operation captured from every angle on state television.

    The first miners were pulled to safety just after midnight Tuesday, delivered into the waiting arms of ecstatic family members, engineers and officials.

    As daylight broke, the pace quickened — each miner’s emergence unleashing a new wave of raw emotion. What only hours earlier seemed magical, however, also became routine.

    One after another, ordinary men, united in an incredible tale of survival and distinguished by each one’s unique skills and story, returned.

    The 55-year-old miner who led a prayer group followed the 26-year-old former security guard who helped manage packages sent down to the miners. The one who while trapped asked his wife of 25 years to renew their wedding vows was followed by the one who went underground to pay for his son’s medical school. The miner colleagues referred to as “”Dr. House”” after the TV character preceded the one who monitored gas levels in the pit and sent readings to the surface.

    Officials said initial indications were that the men were in remarkably good health.

    Speaking to reporters Wednesday afternoon, Health Minister Jaime Manalich said that only one of the 17 miners who had reached the Copiapo Regional Hospital by that point showed any symptoms of a serious illness.

    The most serious condition exhibited by any of the miners, health officials said, was a single case of pneumonia, a condition that had been diagnosed remotely while the miner was still underground. Doctors at the Copiapo Regional Hospital were prepared and had already begun to treat the miner, who was not identified, Chilean Health Minister Jaime Manalich said.

    Ophthalmologist Luis Salinas said initial examinations showed no apparent eye damage from the weeks without sunlight, contrary to the fears of medical experts.

    Otherwise, the miners’ health so far was “”more than satisfactory,”” Manalich said, adding that the first ones to be rescued probably would be discharged from the hospital starting Thursday afternoon.

    He said there were tentative plans for a news conference with most, if not all, of the miners in a few days to share their experiences.

    “”I think it would be good for them that the entire nation sees them at the start of this new phase of life that they are starting,”” Manalich said.

    The miners will visit the presidential palace Oct. 25 and receive red-carpet treatment, Pinera said. The president, who is an avid soccer fan, challenged the miners to a soccer match with his presidential palace staff.

    Pinera said the government will not abandon the miners as they return to normal life. “”We will not leave them alone, not in matters of health, their family relations nor their reinsertion to the workforce,”” he said.

    As the full dimension of the unprecedented accomplishment of pulling the trapped miners to safety hit home, national pride and joy swept the nation.

    On a barren desert hillside a short distance from the winch that hauled the miners up, the 33 Chilean flags placed there soon after the Aug. 5 mining accident fluttered against an azure sky.

    While his countrymen celebrated the emergence of each miner, Pinera took congratulatory calls from other heads of state. President Barack Obama said the rescue was “”a tribute not only to the determination of the rescue workers and the Chilean government, but also the unity and resolve of the Chilean people, who have inspired the world.””

    Obama also singled out the Americans who manufactured and operated the drill that reached the miners and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration team that helped design the rescue capsule.

    Alicia Campos, whose 27-year-old son, Daniel Herrera Campos, was the 16th to be lifted out of the mine early Wednesday afternoon, said her first order of business was to take him home to southern Chile and say a Mass of thanksgiving.

    Before leaving to greet her son, Campos likened the rescue to a “”cesarean section done on Mother Earth.””

    “”Daniel will truly be born again. But before I hug him and tell him how much I love him, I will thank God for allowing it to happen,”” Campos said. Later, TV coverage of her son’s rescue showed their tearful reunion.

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