Emotional ceremony for Chile miners as one month marked

In the weeks since the cave-in, the miners have become national heroes.

Last Updated: Sep 06, 2010, 09:18 AM IST

Copiapo: In an emotional ceremony full of song, music and tears, relatives of 33 trapped workers marked one month since a cave-in at a Chilean mine entombed their loved ones deep underground.

Flags for the 32 Chileans and one Bolivian were placed in the ground, and at 1:45 pm (local time) yesterday, the estimated time when the San Jose mine collapsed on August 05, the crowd sounded flutes and horns and chanted upbeat songs.

Chile`s Mines Minister Laurence Golborne presided over the ceremony, reading aloud the names of the workers. Relatives and friends shouted "Viva!" as each name was called.

In the weeks since the cave-in, the miners have become national heroes as their improbable tale of survival has captivated the world.

But relatives said the miners, trapped 700 meters underground, were becoming dejected and demoralised as the realisation sinks in that freedom is still several weeks away at least.

"It`s painful, because time is passing by," said Elizabeth Segovia, whose brother Dario is one of the workers trapped in the mine.

She spoke of the families` pain in knowing that 30 days after the accident, rescuers were not likely to reach the men before Christmas, and that most of their ordeal still lies ahead of them.

"Hopefully everything will turn out all right so that they can be rescued."

Relatives spoke to the miners on Saturday using a special video link, for the first time able not only to hear their voices but also to see their faces.

But far from providing relief, some relatives said those conversations only made them more fretful about the emotional and mental state of their loved ones.

"Yesterday, they were angry, because fatigue was beginning to set in. It has already been quite a few days," Alejandro Zamora said of his trapped brother, Victor.

"My brother was not able to speak, he was so angry," Zamora said. "He was not in a very good mood."

The miners were visited on Saturday by four of the 16 survivors of a notorious 1972 plane crash in the Andes.

Their horrific but amazing story -- some had to resort to eating their dead companions to stay alive for 72 days in the mountains -- was turned into a best-selling book, `Alive`, and then a 1993 movie of the same name.

PTI