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A SLIVER OF HOPE; Chilean miners: New revelations of ordeal...and their battles NOW; ...then 'shafted'; EXCLUSIVE.

Byline: Deborah Sherwood

A SINGLE slice of tinned peach is cut into 33 pieces and shared out between the trapped miners - a sliver of hope in a desperate ordeal.

The 33 Chilean miners entombed nearly half a mile underground were slowly starving and suffocating in sweltering heat.

For 17 days people assumed they were dead until a rescuers' drill penetrated their chamber and they attached a note to it.

But it was another 52 long days before leader Mario Sepulveda and his traumatised team breathed fresh Chilean air again.

Their seemingly impossible rescue - one by one in a capsule through a specially drilled tunnel - was worldwide news. And in the elation it was assumed the trapped miners' troubles were now behind them.

But four years after the October 2010 disaster that is far from the case and the men, who once feared a mine would collapse on them, have been shafted again.

Many have been tortured by depression yet forced to return to mining as they have received no compensation.

The miners are claiming PS6.67million in damages from the government and PS11.3million from the mine owner San Esteban y n e Company. But the cases are moving slowly and in August 2013 a prosecutor closed an investigation into the collapse saying there were no grounds to prosecute the owners.

The terrifying ordeal has been turned into a book, Deep Down Dark by Hector Tobarand is being made into a Hollywood filmThe 33, with Antonio Banderas as Sepulveda and Juliette Binoche as a miner's sister.

The miners have been promised a cut of the box office but that is unlikely to bring them lasting help.

The film is also unlikely to capture the continuing agonies to be with suffered by "Los 33", who hacked copper and gold from San Jose Mine, near Copiapo in the Atacama Desert.


Deep Down Dark reveals how the mine, shut after a fatal underground explosion in 2007, was allowed to reopen after promises of better safety.

The men heard rocks falling and saw wallcracking before the collapse but when they asked if it was safe a manager said: "Whaare you? A coward?"

The book details how the trapped miners had to drink filthy water used to cool drills as they had only 93 packets of biscuits, a can of salmon, one of peaches, one of peas, 18 of tuna and 10 bottles of water. Sepulveda s s n 8 a dished out a daily 300-calorie ration of canned fish and water to each man, some of whom are pictured below, at noon and got them to pray together. Temperatures reached 122F (50C) with only breezes from other caves providing any respite.

Conditions were so tough the men joked about eating each other. As their helmet lamps grew dim the men, who had difficulty breathing and lost up to four stone, wrote farewell letters to loved ones.

Five days after first contact was made the supply tunnel was wide enough to pass down food and medical supplies.

Sepulveda, who fronted video messages from the men to the outside world, makes a living speaking about the ordeal. He is the lucky one.

One miner in the book says: "When I walk in a bar, everyone expects me to buy drinks. What they don't know is I haven't got enough to buy my own."

Journalist Tobar said a few still seek counselling and most remain friends. He said they mined to support their families. "When the men faced death the desire to return to their families and loved ones kept them going."

There's now a monument at the mine's entrance and Tobar added: "They blame the owners. I pray they receive justice."

ARIEL TICONA went back to a mining job but suffered anxiety and nightmares and quit. He is supported by industrial insurance.

YONNI BARRIOS'S wife Marta met mistress Susana as they waited for news. He lives with Susana but has lung disease.

VICTOR SEGOVIA became a depressed recluse after the rescue. He felt used as he lent friends money that was not repaid.

EDISON PENA sang Elvis hits to cheer the 33. He turned to drink and spent time in a mental unit after becoming suicidal.

ALEX VEGA was the frailest and lost three stone underground. He struggled with mood swings and nightmares and now fixes cars.

VICTOR ZAMORA was in the first video sent up by the 33 but hopes of cashing in on his fame failed.

'The desire with their families kept the miners going'


HUG: Barrios and mistress Susana and, above, in mine

MOVIE: Binoche and Banderas, with Sepulveda (right), are stars of The 33

ESCAPE FROM HELL Joyful Mario Sepulveda is second to reach the surface in 2010 and, left, rescue capsule

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Publication:The People (London, England)
Date:Oct 26, 2014
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