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Trapped Chilean Miners Stay Busy As Families Gather Above

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Trapped Chilean Miners Stay Busy As Families Gather Above

Latin America

Trapped Chilean Miners Stay Busy As Families Gather Above

Trapped Chilean Miners Stay Busy As Families Gather Above

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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The 33 miners trapped a half-mile underground in a Chilean mine have been without fresh air, sunlight or freedom for nearly a month. Rescue efforts are under way, but it will take months to reach them.


In Chile, efforts continue to rescue 33 miners who have been trapped since their mine collapsed on August 5th. Crews are working around the clock and family members keeping vigil.

Reporter Annie Murphy is at the scene of the San Jose Mine in northern Chile and is on the line. Hello, Annie.

ANNIE MURPHY: Hi, there.

HANSEN: Tell us whats going on. They're drilling a shaft to reach the miners. It started this week. What are the developments?

MURPHY: They started the shaft a few days ago. They're advancing relatively slowly, so the government is also considering Plan B and thats projected to be two months, if it's successful. There's a drill, a second drilling that arrived for this process. They're set to start that drilling between today and tomorrow. And then they're also considering a third option, a Plan C, which could potentially start before Chilean Independence Day, September 18th.

HANSEN: Annie, it sounds like the Plan A and the backups, B and C, are all about drilling.


HANSEN: And so they're trying to drill in different places.

MURPHY: Thats correct. The drills vary and the kind of hole that they can make varies.

HANSEN: There's been a lot of speculation about the miners' mental health, and several we've seen have showed some depression. Can you assess or has anyone assessed what their mental state is like right now, and whats being done to keep their spirits up?

MURPHY: The government has a team of doctors, including psychologists that are working with them constantly. And it seems like the miners, right now, are much calmer than they were at the beginning. Their families are also a lot calmer. You know, they have contact through letters and there's also telephone communication, and a new video feed.

So it looks like their spirits are pretty high. And the government thinks that the key is just to keep them busy right now. So theyve sent - in addition to the regular tasks that they have for their own survival, the government has also sent down cards. They broadcast the football game down there.

Now they have this video feed, that I mentioned, that started yesterday. And family members could go up to a computer screen and pick up a phone and talk to the person that they're waiting for and see them on the screen. And that sort of communication will be regular.

So those kinds of things are being done to keep the miners' spirits up. And then there's also just a lot of structure and routine in their day to day lives. A lot of emphasis is being put on leadership roles for three of the men that are down there. The idea is that the younger men and the more inexperienced miners can look to these older men for guidance and, you know, get through rough spots that way.

HANSEN: Hmm. And the family members who are above ground gathered near the mine. What is life like for them in the camp? How are they holding up?

MURPHY: It really ebbs and flows up above ground. During the week, there are fewer people there because many people have jobs. A lot of the kids are in school. And now that they know their family members are alive and well, theyve tried to at least return a little bit to their normal lives.

So during the week it can be relatively quiet. But on the weekend it gets a lot more lively. This weekend in particular because it will mark a month that the miners have been underground. So a lot of family members are up in the camp this weekend. It was very lively yesterday; tons of people around, lots of kids. Some local fishermen came and cooked lunch for everyone there. They brought, I think they said, three to 4,000 fish that they caught. They came and they fried them up for everyone. And then yesterday, they also had that video communication with their family members.

So I think the mood there is a lot more upbeat. And right now there are also quite a few people there.

HANSEN: Reporter Annie Murphy in Copiapo, Chile. Annie, thank you so much.

MURPHY: Thank you.

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