Friday, August 27, 2010

Trapped Chilean Miners Face a Very Tough Ordeal

Being a miner has to be a hard enough job - going down into a mine, but when something like this happens, they're faced with a prolonged stay underground. Miners train for a lot of things, but it's hard to prepare for something like this. The article below tells more about their plight
    . . June

Trapped Chilean Miners Face a Tough Psychological Ordeal - Yahoo! News:

There's almost nothing about the plight of the Chilean miners trapped beneath nearly half a mile of rock in the Atacama Desert that doesn't horrify us. There's the crowding - 33 men confined in a 600-sq.-ft. safety chamber smaller than a one-bedroom apartment. There's the heat - a stagnant 90 degrees F relieved only by a thin trickle of fresh air that makes it down through a narrow ventilation pipe. There's the gloom - a near total blackness relieved only by the flashlights on the men's helmets. Worst of all, there's the calendar: the miners face up to four more months of such confinement before a rescue tunnel can be drilled and they can be pulled to safety. That kind of ordeal, we say, would drive any of us nuts - and we're right; it probably would.

Live entombment holds a particular terror for all human beings, and miners are no exception. They may habituate themselves to darkness and heat and very tight spaces, but when the system breaks down - when there's no prospect of re-emerging into the light after a 10-hour shift - their minds can break too. And the longer they're below, the worse the damage may be. (See how the miners survived the first 17 days of their ordeal.)

"Miners train for a lot of things, but it's hard to prepare for something like this," says Dennis O'Dell, director of occupational safety and health for the United Mine Workers of America and a veteran of 20 years in the mines himself. "They're taught first to have a route of escape. It's only when that fails that you have to think of taking shelter."

Chilean officials are being roundly criticized for the shabby state of the mine and the poor safety record that led to the Aug. 5 collapse - but they're also getting a lot of kudos for the way they've responded since, particularly the attention they've paid to the emotional welfare of the imprisoned men and their families. Ever since the miners were located after a 17-day search of the maze of subterranean shafts, officials have been reaching out to psychologists, family counselors and even NASA doctors, who know better than most about how people endure long periods of confinement far away from loved ones.

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