SANTIAGO (Reuters) – As the world watched the rescue of 12 Thai boys and their soccer coach from deep inside a flooded cave, on the other side of the globe a group of Chilean miners followed the unfolding drama anxiously.
The 33 former gold miners were themselves the focus of international media attention eight years ago when they were freed after 69 days trapped underground at the San Jose mine in northern Chile.
Since their rescue by Chilean authorities and international experts amid a blaze of publicity, many of the miners have endured relationship breakdowns, psychological problems, penury and unemployment, members of the group said.
The former mine foreman Luis Urzua urged the rescued children to stick close to their families and avoid their heads being turned by financial offers. The last of the boys was freed on Tuesday, and all twelve are in a hospital where they are being kept for tests.
Urzua described his own experience of being brought to the surface into the glare of media lights, lawyers proffering rights contracts and politicians eager to share the limelight. “They and their families won’t have the capacity to cope with this kind of thing. We couldn’t cope and we were adults,” said Urzua, now aged 62, who was credited with keeping his colleagues united underground.