SANTIAGO, Chile (AFP) — Two years after the high-profile rescue of 33 miners trapped deep below ground for more than two months, most of them were no-shows yesterday at a ceremony commemorating their liberation.
The ceremony, led by President Sebastian Pinera, was attended by just three of the 33 stuck in a dark shaft 622 metres (2,040 feet) beneath the earth’s surface for 69 days.
The rest excused themselves from the event in the presidential palace for various reasons, a government source told AFP.
“This is an experience that all Chileans will remember forever,” Pinera said of the highly publicised rescue operation sparked after a shaft collapsed at the San Jose copper and gold mine in the Atacama desert August 5, 2010, trapping 32 Chileans miners and a Bolivian colleague.
It took rescuers 17 days to drill a small shaft to establish contact with the miners, after which they were able to communicate with their loved ones and receive food from the outside world as efforts continued to open a passage way wide enough to pull them out, one by one.
Their plight and eventual liberation, which was televised internationally, sparked much fanfare — both at home and abroad.
“Sometimes Chileans tend to forget the nice things that happen to us,” said Mario Sepulveda, one of the more outgoing miners of the group. “But one thing is certain: even if we aren’t good at football, we are world champion rescuers.”
Yesterday’s ceremony was also attended by some 30 technicians and officials involved in the rescue operation.
In the aftermath of their rescue, some of the miners have started new businesses and give motivational talks, while others have returned to mining.
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