Dramas cut from

Chile mine rescue

on TV, says author

February 15, 2011
Viewers "tricked" ... a miner is brought to the surface last year.
Viewers “tricked” … a miner is brought to the surface last year. Photo: AFP

THE ”live” televised rescue of 33 trapped miners in Chile, which appeared to the world as a flawless operation, was edited to disguise dangerous problems, a new book claims.

In a slick media operation the Chilean authorities covered up the fact that the rescue shaft had been destabilised and a rockfall had cut a cable between the surface and the chamber more than 600 metres underground.

The live TV feed was at one point interrupted and video clips from earlier on in the rescue recycled to allow emergency repairs to be carried out unseen during the 22-hour operation to haul the men up from the deep, which began on October 12.

The revelation comes in a book published today in Australia entitled Los 33, which charts the men’s entombment in the San Jose gold and copper mine deep below the Atacama Desert in northern Chile. ”A billion viewers around the world were … tricked,” said Jonathan Franklin, the author of the book, who gained special access to the rescue operation while most news media were excluded.

”They never realised that the image of perfection being broadcast was a rerun to cover up a dramatic chapter far too risky for the Chilean government to allow the world to see.”

The book provides an insight into the high-profile role played by the country’s President, Sebastian Pinera, who was at the surface of the mine and the first to greet the rescued men as they emerged from the Phoenix capsule into fresh air after more than nine weeks below ground.

But he had wanted to be the first man lowered down in the metal cage to join the miners underground, because he was ”enthralled” by the idea of personally vouching for its safety. ”Security aides to the President were apoplectic,” Franklin writes.

”Having already suffered in their attempt to protect a president who insisted on flying his own helicopter and scuba-diving, they knew he was serious. So did Cecilia Morel, the first lady. She immediately picked up the scent of a risky folly. Catching her husband’s eye, she told him to abandon the plan. ‘Don’t even think about it,’ she ordered. Though it ran against his instincts, Pinera obeyed.”

At one point during the rescue a heated argument broke out between the naval officers overseeing the extraction down below and a local official lowered down to help. The interloper was quickly forced to return to the surface under threat of force. But thanks to ”judicious editing … the world saw not a single second of this centre-stage drama”, Franklin writes.

The book also sheds light on the first 17 days following the mine collapse and before contact was made with the surface. During that time of extreme food rationing the men considered resorting to cannibalism.

Telegraph, London

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha

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