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DISASTER MANAGEMENT
Chile miners return to Camp Hope

Chilean miners Jorge Galleguillos (2-L) and Jimmy Sanchez (R) - two of the 33 recently rescued from San Jose mine - are seen at the San Jose mine for a mass near Copiapo, 800 km north of Santiago, on October 17, 2010. Almost all the miners have already been discharged from the hospital and must now adjust to their lives in the media glare after 69 days trapped deep in a gold and copper mine. Photo courtesy AFP.

Chilean president offers help to China's trapped miners
London (AFP) Oct 16, 2010 - Chilean President Sebastian Pinera offered to help China with its latest mining disaster on Saturday as he began a trip to London, saying his country had learnt lessons from its own mining crisis. "I hope that the Chinese workers that have suffered an accident, and also in Ecuador, will be able to come back to life," Pinera told reporters outside his hotel in London, where he arrived earlier at the start of a European trip. "And if we can be of any help, they know that they can count on us."

Rescue attempts were underway Saturday in central China to free 16 miners trapped underground following a coal mine accident that killed 21 of their colleagues. Meanwhile in Ecuador, four men were trapped in a gold mine. Pinera said his country had learnt lessons from the disaster-turned-tragedy that occurred in the San Jose mine in far northern Chile, where 33 miners were trapped for two months before miraculously being pulled out alive this week. "We have a lot to learn from this accident and one of the lessons is that we have to be much more careful and committed with the safety, lives, and health of our workers," he told reporters, flanked by his wife, Cecilia Morel.

The president is due to meet with new British Prime Minister David Cameron -- who he said was "very good for England" -- and Queen Elizabeth II on Monday, and will present them with gifts including rocks from the San Jose mine. "Also we are bringing the gratitude of all the Chileans because we received a lot of help from our friends around the world," he said. The president will also find time to do some sightseeing, and has planned a trip to the British Museum as well as to memorials of wartime premier Winston Churchill, who Pinera has said he greatly admires. The London visit is the start of a European trip that will also include stops in Paris, where Pinera will meet President Nicolas Sarkozy, and Berlin, where he will have talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel.
by Staff Writers
Copiapo, Chile (AFP) Oct 17, 2010
A group of Chile's rescued miners returned to the scene of their ordeal on Sunday, visiting the "Camp Hope" tent city outside the San Jose mine where anxious relatives had awaited the men's return.

The miners, who were mobbed by reporters, were expected to attend a mass at the mine and tour the makeshift campsite where their relatives had monitored efforts to rescue them during the nearly 10 weeks that the men were trapped deep below ground.

Police were forced to step in to protect the six miners, who arrived with their relatives at the site at 10:00 am (1300GMT), after journalists crowded them seeking interviews.

Amid calls around the world for greater mine safety in the wake of their accident, rescue operations to reach trapped miners were underway in both China and Ecuador.

In China, at least 26 people were killed after a gas explosion in a coal mine and hope was fading that 11 others would be found alive

In Ecuador, at least two men were confirmed dead after a rock collapse blocked the exit of a gold mine, and rescuers were working to find two others.

At the site of Chile's miraculous rescue, the first miner to arrive was Juan Carlos Aguilar, 49, who came with his wife and son.

They walked around the site of the now-abandoned Camp Hope, and took a look at the tent where Aguilar's family waited for his rescue.

Next to return were Luis Urzua, the shift supervisor who served as de facto leader of the men, the sole Bolivian among the miners, Carlos Mamani, and Juan Illanes, who carried his one-and-half-year old daughter in his arms.

Two others, Jimmy Sanchez and Dario Segovia, arrived at the San Jose mine, in Chile's forbidding Atacama desert, shortly afterwards.

Chilean President Sebastian Pinera, who embarked Friday on a tour of Europe, has suggested turning Camp Hope into a memorial or museum to honor the men.

Not all 33 were expected to attend the mass planned for Sunday, with some still too tired, and others recovering from family celebrations that ran late into Saturday night.

One of the men, Victor Zamora, is still in hospital, and is expected to stay there for medical observation until Tuesday, after having dental problems.

The return to the mine was part of what is expected to be a long process of adjustment for the 33 men, who have become national heroes and garnered global attention for their miraculous survival and dramatic rescue.

Some were finding it difficult to come to terms with their new lives.

"This isn't right," miner Victor Segovia said when he went home to find a crowd of camera-toting news crews waiting, according to an account in the newspaper La Tercera.

"We are nobodies. We are only simple people who survived," he was quoted as saying.

"What they are facing in the week to come is very difficult," said Health Minister Jaime Manalich.

Miner Ariel Ticona admitted he wasn't sleeping much, but not because of nightmares or anxiety -- his baby daughter was keeping him up all night.

"It's okay, I've got a backlog of sleep," he told AFP Saturday.

His little girl Esperanza, which means "hope" in Spanish, was born while Ticona was still trapped over 600 meters (2,000 feet) below ground.

"She's pretty, very pretty. She's beautiful, just lovely," he told AFP.

Details of the amazing survival have emerged gradually, with the men describing the horror of the initial period after the August 5 collapse that trapped them, when they feared they had been given up for dead.

"The confinement was terrible," said miner Juan Illanes, a 52-year-old mechanic and former soldier.

"The first 17 days were a nightmare. Then everything changed. But the hardest thing was to be down there. Buried for two months."

After more than two weeks, rescuers finally reached the men on August 22, and then began working furiously to build the rescue shaft through which they were pulled to safety last week.

Above ground, in the gritty mining town of Copiapo, the men have a chance to turn their fear and despair into profit, perhaps even riches beyond their wildest dreams, if book deals and Hollywood film rights come.

In a sign of the special bond that sustained them through their terrible entrapment, relatives say the men want to pool the proceeds of any payments so they can be shared equally.

earlier related report
Amid celebrations, Chile miners struggle with newfound fame
Copiapo, Chile (AFP) Oct 16, 2010 - Chile's miners indulged in neighborhood homecoming parties and barbecues Saturday as they tried to ignore the burdens of their new found fame after surviving 69 days trapped deep underground.

Thirty-one of the 33 miners spent the night at home Friday after being allowed to leave the hospital where they were treated upon being lifted from the gold and copper mine on Wednesday.

One miner was allowed to return home Saturday and another stayed in a medical facility for treatment of a dental problem, an issue that was expected to be resolved by Tuesday.

But even as joyous friends and family welcomed their beloved men back to the gritty mining town of Copiapo, the miners struggled to come to terms with the weight of their fame and the international attention they have drawn after their incredible ordeal.

"This isn't right," miner Victor Segovia said when he went home to find a crowd of camera-toting news crews waiting, according to an account in the newspaper La Tercera.

"We are nobodies. We are only simple people who survived," he was quoted as saying.

"What they are facing in the week to come is very difficult," said Health Minister Jaime Manalich.

One of the miners, Jose Henriquez, who was credited with being the spiritual leader of the group, was drawn back to the mine on Saturday for a nostalgic visit, his brother told a local radio station.

"He wanted to be here to feel it up close, after all that's happened, all that we lived through, to be in peace," said Gaston Henriquez.

Miner Ariel Ticona meanwhile spent his first night at home with his newly expanded family, including a baby girl Esperanza -- "Hope" in Spanish -- who was born while he was underground.

"She's pretty, very pretty. She's beautiful, just lovely," he said of the little girl who has kept her father up all night.

"It's okay, I've got a backlog of sleep," he said happily.

Ticona told AFP that the men survived in part by organizing themselves into groups, each with a particular responsibility.

"I was one of the ones responsible for communication, for installing the fiber optic equipment and items that made it possible to hold videoconferences," he said.

For these tough men a new world of opportunity awaits and a chance to turn their fear and despair into profit, perhaps even riches beyond their wildest dreams, if book deals and Hollywood film rights come.

"The confinement was terrible," said miner Edison Pena, a 52-year-old mechanic and former soldier. "The first 17 days were a nightmare. Then everything changed. But the hardest thing was to be down there. Buried for two months."

The men were trapped on August 5 by a huge rock collapse inside the mine and they had been almost given up for dead before a probe sent down through a narrow bore hole struck lucky on August 22.

Yonni Barrios, 50, said he believed surviving this ordeal was "fairly complicated," but his girfriend Susana was his main reason for fighting for his life.

"Several times I had all but lost all hope," he admitted. "But a person always needs a reason to continue fighting on. And she was my reason."

During the underground ordeal Barrios played the key role of a nurse because of his basic knowledge of medicine.

Anonymous before, the miners are now household names in Chile and media stars around the world.

A sign of the special bond that sustained them through their terrible entrapment, relatives say the men want to pool the proceeds so any treasure that comes their way can be shared equally.

The half-sister of one miner, Claudio Yanez, said they had decided to seek 20 million pesos (around 40,000 dollars) per interview.

One of the first stops for many of the men could be the mine itself as relatives are planning a special event on Sunday at the tent city, dubbed Camp Hope, where they had pined for their loved ones.

Chilean President Sebastian Pinera, who embarked Friday on a tour of Europe to hail the rescue of the miners, has suggested turning the camp into a memorial or museum to honor the men.

On Saturday in London he offered to help China free 16 coal miners trapped there following an accident that has killed 21 miners.

"If we can be of any help, they know that they can count on us," Pinera said.




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