On October 13, 2010, the last of 33 miners trapped nearly half a mile underground for more than two months at a caved-in mine in northern Chile, are rescued. The miners survived longer than anyone else trapped underground in recorded history.

The last miner to be rescued, Luis Urzúa, centre, gestures as Chile's president, Sebastían Piñera, right, looks on. Photograph: Alex Ibanez/AP

The last miner to be rescued, Luis Urzúa, centre, gestures as Chile’s president, Sebastían Piñera, right, looks on. Photograph: Alex Ibanez/AP

The miners’ ordeal began on August 5, 2010, when the San Jose gold and copper mine where they were working, some 500 miles north of the Chilean capital city of Santiago, collapsed.

The 33 men moved to an underground emergency shelter area, where they discovered just several days’ worth of food rations. As their situation grew more desperate over the next 17 days, the miners, uncertain if anyone would find them, considered suicide and cannibalism. Then, on August 22, a drill sent by rescuers broke through to the area where the miners were located, and the men sent back up a note saying, “We are fine in the refuge, the 33.”

Chile's President Sebastian Pinera holds up a plastic bag containing a message, from miners trapped in a collapsed mine, that reads in Spanish "We are ok in the refuge, the 33 miners" in Copiapo, Chile, Sunday Aug. 22, 2010. The miners have been trapped below the surface of the mine since the main access collapsed on Aug. 5 due to tons of falling rock. (AP Photo/Hector Retamal)

Chile’s President Sebastian Pinera holds up a plastic bag containing a message, from miners trapped in a collapsed mine, that reads in Spanish “We are ok in the refuge, the 33 miners” in Copiapo, Chile, Sunday Aug. 22, 2010. The miners have been trapped below the surface of the mine since the main access collapsed on Aug. 5 due to tons of falling rock. (AP Photo/Hector Retamal)

Food, water, letters, medicine and other supplies were soon delivered to the miners via a narrow bore hole. Video cameras were also sent down, making it possible for rescuers to see the men and the hot, humid space in which they were entombed. As engineering and mining experts from around the world collaborated on the long, complex process of devising a way to bring the 33 men up to the surface, the miners maintained a system of jobs and routines in order to keep up morale.

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Rescuers eventually drilled and reinforced an escape shaft wide enough to extract the men, one by one. (Employees of a Pennsylvania-based drilling-tool company played a role in drilling the rescue shaft.) On October 12, the first of the miners was raised to the surface in a narrow, 13-foot-tall capsule painted white, blue and red, the colors of the Chilean flag. The approximately 2,000-foot ascent to the surface in the capsule took around 15 minutes for each man.

Workers operate the T 130 drilling machine as they prepare the last tube (L, down) that will be used to complete an escape hole for the 33 miners that are trapped deep underground at San Jose mine near Copiapo city October 9, 2010. REUTERS/Stringer

Workers operate the T 130 drilling machine as they prepare the last tube (L, down) that will be used to complete an escape hole for the 33 miners that are trapped deep underground at San Jose mine near Copiapo city October 9, 2010. REUTERS/Stringer

The miners were greeted by a cheering crowd that included Chile’s president, Sebastian Pinera; media from around the world; and friends and relatives, many of whom had been camped at the base of the mine in the Atacama Desert for months. Millions of people around the globe watched the rescue on live TV. Less than 24 hours after the operation began, all 33 of the miners, who ranged in age from 19 to 63, had been safely rescued. Almost all the men were in good health, and each of them sported dark glasses to protect their eyes after being in a dimly lit space for so long.

Order of Rescue: Florencio Avalos (31), Mario Sepulveda (39), Juan Illanes (51), Carlos Mamani (23), Jimmy Sanchez (19), Osman Araya (30), Jose Ojeda (46), Claudio Yanez (34), Mario Gomez (63), Alex Vega (31), Jorge Galleguillos (56), Edison Pena (34), Carlos Barrios (27), Victor Zamora (33), Victor Segovia (48), Daniel Herrera (27), Omar Reygadas (56), Esteban Rojas (44), Pablo Rojas (45), Dario Segovia (48), Yonni Barrios (50), Samuel Avalos (43), Carlos Bugueno (27), Jose Henriquez (54), Renan Avalos (29), Claudio Acuna, (35), Franklin Lobos (53), Richard Villarroel (27), Juan Aguilar (49), Raul Bustos (40), Pedro Cortez (24), Ariel Ticona (29), Luis Urzua (54)

Order of Rescue: Florencio Avalos (31), Mario Sepulveda (39), Juan Illanes (51), Carlos Mamani (23), Jimmy Sanchez (19), Osman Araya (30), Jose Ojeda (46), Claudio Yanez (34), Mario Gomez (63), Alex Vega (31), Jorge Galleguillos (56), Edison Pena (34), Carlos Barrios (27), Victor Zamora (33), Victor Segovia (48), Daniel Herrera (27), Omar Reygadas (56), Esteban Rojas (44), Pablo Rojas (45), Dario Segovia (48), Yonni Barrios (50), Samuel Avalos (43), Carlos Bugueno (27), Jose Henriquez (54), Renan Avalos (29), Claudio Acuna, (35), Franklin Lobos (53), Richard Villarroel (27), Juan Aguilar (49), Raul Bustos (40), Pedro Cortez (24), Ariel Ticona (29), Luis Urzua (54)

The rescued miners were later honored with trips to a variety of destinations, including England, Israel and Florida’s Walt Disney World, where a parade was held in their honor.

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4 responses

  1. Al says:

    That was four years ago? It doesn’t seem that long.

    Like

  2. Birgit says:

    I remember this so well and it was an amazing story since they were alive and often that is not the case. It is so nice of you to showcase them here

    Like