Santiago, Sep 3 (Calcutta Tube) The rescue of 33 workers trapped in a mine in northern Chile for nearly a month might take longer than expected after work on the rescue shaft hit problems Wednesday.
After a special drill from Australia had dug 20 metres of the shaft since work started Tuesday, engineers found a fault in the wall.
The engineer in charge of the rescue tasks at the copper and gold mine, Andre Sougarret, said that such problems were anticipated and expected the problem to be overcome.
‘We are going to do what we have described, and will use cement to cover the walls and resume digging,’ Sougarret said.
On a more positive note, Chilean authorities said workers’ health has been stabilized enough to get more food.
The miners lost large amounts of weight during their first 17 days underground, before rescuers found they were still alive. Contact was reestablished Aug 21 through small drill holes that allow transport of food, water and equipment.
‘(The situation) allows us to go to the next phase of food stabilization this week, with a daily diet of 2,000-2,500 calories,’ the Chilean Interior Ministry’s National Emergency Office (ONEMI) said.
The workers stayed alive after the Aug 5 accident by rationing small bites of tuna and gulps of milk every 48 hours. Since August 21, intake went to 1,500, then 2,000 calories.
‘The miners have shown evidence of a positive level of food tolerance, which allows us to say that they are in good health,’ ONEMI said.
A warm meal – rice with minced meat or chicken, according to Chilean daily El Mercurio – was to have been sent down to the miners for the first time Wednesday – a welcome change from the sandwiches, yogurt, water and special nutrition to date.
Miners with chronic troubles, like hypertension and diabetes, and some with digestive upsets have been treated.
They can also now sleep on inflatable beds delivered in recent days.
Drawing on experience learned in outer space, NASA arrived to help the miners survive the physical and mental challenges of small quarters. NASA’s deputy chief medical officer James Duncan said he was impressed with efforts so far.
A new three-minute soundless video of the miners released by El Mercurio shows the men to be healthy, confident and in better spirits than in an initial recording from last week, when they were unshaven, filthy and shirtless. In the new video, they are clean-shaven, well nourished, wearing red shirts and waving a Chilean flag.
The 27-day ordeal is longer than any other known mine disaster in modern history. After 17 days, the men had nearly been given up on as dead.
Chilean officials denied a Spanish press report that some of the trapped miners were suffering alcohol withdrawal symptoms.
‘Miners do not drink more or less alcohol than the average Chilean,’ the Spanish daily El Mundo quoted Javier Diaz, who heads a medical team attending to the miners, as telling journalists.
He said vitamins being given the mineworkers were to keep digestive tracts healthy rather than to treat rumoured withdrawal symptoms, he said.
Chilean Health Minister Jaime Manalich, quoted earlier by the Spanish daily El Pais as commenting on the miners’ alcohol consumption, also denied they were alcoholics.
The authorities had given nicotine patches to miners who had been smokers, the minister said. Officials rejected miners’ requests for alcohol and cigarettes.
In earlier times, mine bosses used to brand sick workers as alcoholics, Teresa Gomez, mother of one of the trapped miners, told El Mundo.