On Thursday, August 5th, 2010 an amazing rescue story began to unfold and make history. In northern Chile, South America, a 121-year-old copper and gold mine collapsed, trapping 33 miners 2300- feet underground. The mine had a history of fines and safety violations that included eight deaths in the 12 years leading to the most recent August 5th incident.
The miners were disciplined and demonstrated phenomenal leadership and teamwork skills. At the time of the mine collapse, they had but two days left of food. They lived off two spoons of tuna, nibbles of cracker and peaches, and a sip of milk that carried them an additional two weeks until the rescuers could bore through with emergency rations. Knowing how long the human body can sustain without food, this kept their nutrition level just above starvation.
The tremendous outpour of public concern for the miners and their families led to the national government taking over the rescue efforts from the faltering and financially strapped mine owner. Three large internationally led drilling rig teams, including the United States’ National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) agency, contributed to the rescue effort. Taking shifts day and night, around the clock the rescue teams continued drill bore holes bore holes. Progress periodically slowed because of the difficulty penetrating large rock areas. The vibration sometimes ignited additional collapses, making the rescue effort ever more challenging.
As the days became weeks, family, relatives, and friends gathered at the entrance of the mine waiting to hear word of a rescue. After days of families sleeping in their cars, the local community started bringing tents, camping gear, and food supplies to shelter and feed the families. As time went on media and government officials arrived and eventually the area looked like a tent city. Soon it became known as “Camp Hope”. National flags for the 32 Chilean, and one Bolivian with pictures of each miner were placed around the camp.
On 13 October, 2010, at 2:05 p.m Chilean time, rescue of the 33 miners was successful. They were in good medical condition considering their ordeal. One miner suffered from pneumonia and three others required emergency dental surgery for severe dental infections.
The cost of the rescue effort exceeded 20 million US dollars. Some of the cost was paid for by the local government and the mine owners. Investigation of the mine conditions and lawsuits from the accident remain pending.
Consideration and Potential Needs When Communicating to Family of Trapped Miners There is nothing more emotional for a human being than when someone he or she loves so deeply is in a dangerous, life threatening situation. Not knowing if their loved one will live or die leaves their dependence on faith and the skills of the people trying to help. It can be even more difficult when there is nothing they can do but wait for word. They are left helpless and fearful of an unknown outcome.
Communication to the families needs to be in person, immediate, and delivered with compassion and understanding. Prior to meeting face-to-face with the families, gather a list of all of their names and the name of the relative miner. Ascertain their nationality and any eliminate any language barriers. Provide translators if needed. Ask the family members for any pertinent medical information of the miners. A meeting private meeting place should be set up away from the media. The information presented to them should state clearly, concisely, only factual data. They should receive update on the physical condition as known for each of the miners. They should always be apprised of the status of the rescue attempt, and details of the drilling process. Any questions they have should be answered truthfully, yet staying mindful of their fragile emotional state. If the questions...