If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

- George Washington

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Chilean Breakthrough

According to the BBC, the drill which is opening a passage down to the trapped Chilean miners has now broken through to a chamber which is in reach of the men.
Rescuers have drilled through to the underground chamber where 33 Chilean miners have been trapped since August.

The breakthrough at the San Jose mine came shortly after 0800 local time (1200 GMT).

It means efforts to remove the miners through the tunnel should begin within days.
This thing has been on my mind since the first collapse and the news that the miners were trapped. I haven't written anything here about it, but I have thought about it a lot. I've never been down a mine, but I have been down plenty of potholes and caves, and I know the feeling of isolation you can get when you are a long way from the surface, with millions of tons of rock above you. If you are mildly claustrophobic, as I am, and especially if the exit route is tight and arduous, you need to keep a cool head and in firm control of your own emotions. Those men must be very tough characters. I cannot imagine the thoughts that must have gone through their minds in the last 65 days.

To be honest, I didn't expect the greatest of responses from the Chilean authorities. We've all seen what a clusterfuck it can be when man meets critical situation in countries which don't have a tradition of a calm and measured response to situations (I'm trying to be polite here). But they seem to have done everything right so far. Three separate methods of reaching the trapped men, all running simultaneously, and the actual extraction of the men thought through carefully, with every contingency planned for.

The men are expected to be split into three groups. Some who are fit and have the most technical know-how will be chosen to go first - in case something goes wrong.

Then the weakest are expected to be brought to the surface.

A final group, including some of the strongest miners, will wait till last.

That sounds like a very sensible approach. And the shift leader, the man who led them down there and has played such an important part in keeping them healthy and sane, will be last, like the captain leaving a sinking ship.

That's truly heroic.

If I were the praying type, I'd be praying for their safe return from now until the last guy is brought out. The scenes when the men start reaching the surface are going to be amazing. And I say 'when', not 'if'. From what I have seen in the reports, I have every confidence that the operation will be a success.

Good luck and good wishes to everyone involved. I'll be thinking of you all.

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