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Saturday, November 1, 2014

Super Mario and the pit of despair - Chilean Mining accident ...

Super Mario Bros. is a 1985 platform video game internally developed by Nintendo EAD.  Mario is a fictional character in the Mario video game franchise, created by Nintendo's Japanese video game designer, Shigeru Miyamoto. Serving as the company's mascot and the protagonist of the series, Mario has appeared in over 200 video games since his creation. Depicted as a short, pudgy, Italian plumber who resides in the Mushroom Kingdom, his adventures generally center upon rescuing Princess Peach from the Koopa villain Bowser.

In the deeper desert, miners are the only conspicuous living presence; they ride in trucks and buses to the mountains, which contain gold, copper, and iron. The minerals draw workers to the Atacama from all over Chile. On the evening of August 3, 2010, many of them  began a bus journey of more than a thousand miles to reach the San José Mine………..oblivious that soon global community would be deeply concerned about them.  Quite unfortunately, on Aug 5, 2010, the roof of San Jose copper gold mine in Chile collapsed.  The 2010 Copiapó mining accident, also known then as the "Chilean mining accident" at the troubled 121-year-old San José copper–gold mine  located in the Atacama Desert in northern Chile was quite an incident.  The buried were trapped 700 meters (2,300 ft) underground and about 5 kilometers (3 mi) from the mine's entrance via spiraling underground service ramps. The mixed crew of experienced miners and technical support personnel, with less experience working underground, survived for a record 69 days deep underground before their rescue. 

Seventeen days after the accident, on 22 August, a note written in bold red letters appeared taped to a drill bit when it was pulled to the surface after penetrating an area believed to be accessible to the trapped workers. It read simply "Estamos bien en el refugio, los 33" (English: "We are well in the shelter, the 33 of us"). 

The nation of Chile erupted into a wave of euphoria and demanded that Chile's leaders find a way to bring the trapped workers safely home to their waiting families. Once the rescuers, and the world, knew that the men were alive, Chile implemented a comprehensive plan to both care for the workers during their entrapment and to rescue the miners from the depths. 

The plan included the deployment of three large, international drilling rig teams, nearly every Chilean government ministry, the expertise of the NASA space agency and more than a dozen multi-national corporations from nearly every continent; the rescue was truly a global effort. 

After 69 days trapped deep underground, all 33 men were brought safely to the surface on  13th Oct 2010 by a winching operation that lasted nearly 24 hours.


Various lawsuits and investigations resulting from the accident were made but on 1st Aug 2013, after a three-year investigation, all  ended with no charges filed.  The survival was certainly great – they had lived underground without seeing the sunlight but carrying on with great expectations.  At one point there was the starting revelation that it would take as long as four months to dig a new tunnel wide enough to life the miners to the surface.  The positive note was that food, water and medicine could reach them in the meantime through reinforced bore hole and in capsules nicknamed ‘palomas’. …. Not many would now care to know how they are ….and unfortunately, it is not a happy news as enunciated in Daily Mail report of 5th April 2014.

It is one of the most uplifting tales of courage and survival in modern times – a story of life snatched back from the jaws of almost certain death. More than a billion people round the world sat transfixed in front of their televisions as 33 Chilean miners were finally hauled to freedom after 69 days trapped in the darkness thousands of feet beneath the unforgiving surface  of the Atacama Desert. And when Mario Sepulveda  burst out of the ground joyfully crying: ‘Viva Chile!’, he was the undisputed star.

Mario Sepulveda shot to fame when he came out of the mine crying 'Viva Chile' but he said that life since the ordeal has left him penniless and suffering from insomnia. ‘Super Mario’, the leader of the miners, became an instant celebrity around the world.There were free trips to Disney World, to the Greek islands, to Israel and even to watch his beloved Manchester United play at home. Hollywood came calling with a £40million movie, The 33, in which Antonio Banderas played Mario.  In a troubling indictment of what he calls the ‘hell’ of his new-found fame, Mario says that he and his fellow miners feel abandoned and exploited by the world and that, staggeringly, he is now preparing to go back down into the earth that once entombed him – to work as  a miner once again.

Mario is quoted as saying  ‘I am going back to the mines because it is the one place I feel safe. They are making a film but our real life has no Hollywood ending.’  In the report  Mario, now 44,  is at the door of his nondescript hotel room in Copiapo in northern Chile. A 90-minute flight from the capital, Santiago, this is the remote mining town where, in 2010, the drama unfolded. He is back in one of the most inhospitable places on Earth working as  an ‘extras co-ordinator’ on the Hollywood movie that also stars Juliette Binoche as a miner’s wife and Gabriel Byrne as the engineer who masterminded the rescue. Mario has not spoken publicly since the first months of joy and relief – and it soon becomes clear why. As he ushers me into his room, I am struck by the heavy curtains which are drawn to block out all trace of the searing desert sun beating down outside. He shrugs: ‘I prefer to live in darkness. It is more comfortable. In the dark I feel safe. I feel safe alone. ‘When I leave this room I have  people coming up to me, they want pictures and to shake my hand.  'I have fame but not money. It is the worst possible thing.’

Mario says he and his fellow miners suffer from nightmares and depression, brought on by the psychological trauma of being trapped for so long – and the stress of being thrust in front of the world’s cameras.  ‘In there are antidepressants and tablets to make me sleep and have  less stress. Most of the miners are on  medication. I will be on it for the rest of my life. ‘We were all simple, working-class men who went down the mine and came up 69 days later into a circus.  'For the first few months we were superstars. But then slowly the world forgot about us and left us to suffer in silence.’

The Chilean government and the recently deposed President Sebastian Pinera come in for the most savage criticism. The  San Jose gold and copper mine had a reputation as a death trap where safety measures were routinely ignored.   In the photo, Mario embraces then president Sebastian Pinera but he says 'Chile is a corrupt country.' 'The president supported our rescue effort, and for that I am eternally grateful. But it was good PR for him. His popularity shot up’ . Yet the official investigation into the cause of  the accident was closed last August with no charges being brought against the mine owners.

Poignantly, Mario says the first 17 days underground – when the men were trapped 2,300ft below the surface and had no idea if a rescue would be mounted – are now his happiest memories.  As the ‘face’ of the disaster he embarked on a career as a motivational speaker commanding between £3,000 and £10,000 a time, but says that after the first year invitations were ‘few and far between’. He is not the only one to fare badly. Edison Pena, who became famous for his Elvis impressions, ended up in rehab for drug and alcohol addiction. Two of the other men, Victor Zamora and Osman Araya, have  eked out a living selling fruit and vegetables at a Copiapo farmers’ market. Another, Daniel Herrera, tried going back down a mine but suffered panic attacks and is being treated by a psychologist.  Yonni Barrios, who became famous when his wife and long-term mistress fought at the rescue site, ended up divorcing and marrying his mistress and now runs a mini-mart. Strangers have cashed in on the story, writing books and making documentaries. Mario is particularly hurt by some of the wild stories that circulated, including  tales of sexual relationships developing between the trapped men,  and of drugs being smuggled in through the rescue hole.

The 33 (Spanish: Los 33) is an upcoming Chilean survival drama film directed by Patricia Riggen and written by Mikko Alanne and José Rivera. The film is based on the real events of 2010 mining disaster in which a group of thirty-three miners were trapped in the San José Mine, in Chile. The film stars Antonio Banderas as Mario "Super Mario" Sepúlveda, who sent videos to the rescuers to notify them about the miners' condition.

All is well that ends well ~ … ‘the end’ is not ‘what is shown to be’… !!

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

30th Oct 2014.

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