While working 700 meters below the surface, a rumbling was felt, and on instinct the miners retreated to a refuge set aside for their protection. After the sounds ended, the initial efforts of the crew to assess their situation were grim. The passage to the surface was blocked, and there was no way to communicate to the world where they were or even that they were alive.
|The initial efforts to find the miners|
Mine collapses by their very nature rarely have good outcomes. The Sago Mine disaster killed 12 in 2006. The Upper Big Branch Mine disaster killed 29 in 2010. The Farmington Mine disaster killed 78 in 1968. Needless to say, people around the world said prayers, but kept their outlook realistic.
|"All 33 of us are fine in the shelter."|
Then, on day 17, the miracle the rescuers had hoped for happened. A drill pulled from a borehole had a note attached. The miners were alive.
Once the news hit the airwaves, the world's media descended on this tiny desert outpost to report on this amazing story. Not only was the mining company and the nation setting up one of the greatest rescue operations in the history of mining accidents, they had to set up a base camp for an army of reporters who were now arriving by the busload.
|Reporters on the scene at the mining accident|
|Rescue workers being lowered into the mine|
One by one, the miners were hauled to the surface. Slowly and cautiously at first, but as the bore hole proved to be solid, the pace increased. Each miner took his time to celebrate his first taste of freedom in his own way. Some kissed the ground, others hugged the first person they could find. Each was escorted off for a medical assessment until Luis Uruza, the miner's captain, shook the hand of President Sebastian Pinera and sang the national anthem.
|They made it!|
Oh, and this also marks another anniversary that maybe isn't so notable. However, it's important to me and I hope you as a reader. Yes, one year ago, I started writing the PIO Chronicles. I hope that the material I and others have written has helped make your jobs at least a little easier, or encouraged you to learn more about the craft. Let's hope year two is just as productive!
Tom Iovino, Public Relations Strategist
Hillsborough County, Florida