NOTE: The movie "33" was released in the USA on November 13, 2015. The movie title is in reference to the number of miners trapped by the cave-in of a mine in Chile. Actually, there were 34 in that mine. The following tells that story...
The Chilean mining accident happened on August 5, 2010, when a large cave-in occurred at the San Jose copper-gold mine located in northern Chile between the Andes Mountains and Pacific Ocean. Thirty-three men were trapped 2,300 feet underground about three miles from the entrance to the mine. They remained trapped there for sixty-nine days.
At first no one knew if they were alive or dead. Several attempts to bore exploratory holes with the hope of reaching them were unsuccessful. Then on the seventeenth day, just when the rescue team was close to giving up hope, a drill bit penetrated the cavity of the mine where the men were located. A note from the miners was attached to the drill bit, which said, “Estamos bien en el refugio, los 33”. In English this translates to: “We are all well in the shelter, the 33”.
The rescue effort began and ultimately many nations and even NASA participated in the endeavor. A few days later one of the miners, Jimmy Sanchez, sent a letter up from the mine stating: “There are actually thirty-four of us, because God has never left us down here.” The miners’ story is a testimony of their strong faith and God’s amazing love and grace.
During the first seventeen days of their ordeal, with no contact with the outside world, they turned to Luis Urzua, the shift supervisor, to provide leadership and discipline. He is credited with keeping the men alive and in as good shape as they were when they were finally rescued.
The area they were in measured approximately five hundred square feet, about the size of a small studio apartment. The temperature was a humid 90°F, and the only source of light they had came from their helmet lamps. They kept these charged by using the battery from a work truck. The food available was a two-day emergency supply, which Urzua rationed to each one. They ate just two teaspoons of tuna and one biscuit every two days. They washed down their meals with a small sip of milk. It is amazing that after seventeen days, they still had some food left!
In addition to rationing their food supply, they fashioned a makeshift water canal by digging for groundwater and siphoning off additional water from the radiators of mine equipment.
The rescue teams drilled two small holes. This provided an umbilical-like cord through which supplies were sent. One of their first requests was for toothbrushes. Additional items were sent, like food, medical supplies, water, oxygen capsules, glucose and rehydration tablets that were meant to restore their digestive systems. They were supplied with communications devices and batteries to recharge and give power for their helmet lights. The device that transported small objects between the mine chamber and the surface was called a paloma, which in English means pigeon.
One of the miners, José Henríquez, was an evangelical Christian. As rescue efforts developed on the surface, he helped the men maintain a positive outlook during their confinement. He held daily Bible studies for the men. At their request, Bibles were also sent down to them. Since the Bibles had to be small enough to fit into the paloma, a magnifying glass was attached with each Bible. The miners held prayer services at noon and at 6:00 p.m.
Responding further to Henriquez's request for spiritual materials, they were sent an MP3 audio version of the New Testament in Spanish and an MP3 audio version of the Jesus film. The Jesus film is an evangelistic movie about the life of Jesus that has been translated into more than eleven hundred languages. During their confinement the Lord had their undivided attention. Several of the miners became Christians.
Henriquez sent letters through the paloma, their lifeline. The letters thanked the rescue workers for all of the items sent to them and mentioned that the Christian materials were an especially tremendous blessing for him and his co-workers. He closed one of the letters with "For the Lord is a great God and a great King above all gods, In whose hand are the depths of the earth; the peaks of the mountains are His also" (Psalm 95:3-4).
When Esteban Rojas was rescued and reached the surface, he stepped out of the rescue device and immediately knelt on the ground with his hands together in prayer. Then he raised his arms above him in adoration. Carlos Mamani also knelt down as soon as he reached the surface and gave thanks to God. Omar Reygadas did the same, plus he held a Bible in his hands and wore a helmet with "God lives" written on it.
The miners credit God for keeping them free of dysentery and other diseases, which would usually be present in a group their size in such close quarters. “For, it is He who delivers you from the snare of the trapper and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with His pinions, and under His wings you may seek refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark” (Psalm 91:3-4).
The miners' testament of faith has had a broad resonance throughout the world.