Rescued Chilean miner heading for Wearside

Jose Henriquez
Jose Henriquez
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ONE of the Chilean miners trapped underground for 69 days is coming to the North East to tell his amazing story.

Drill master Jose Henriquez was the 24th miner to reach the surface, as the world waited with baited breath to see if the brave men would all reach safety.

Now the 56-year-old – an evangelical preacher who had the role of keeping spirits up 700metres underground – will tell how they survived when he visits Durham Cathedral on January 24.

Accompanying him and translating will be Alf Cooper, chaplain to the President of Chile and a Church Mission Society mission partner, who led Chile’s prayers during the miners’ incredible ordeal.

It was a story which began on August 5 last year and gripped people across the globe.

Thirty-three miners were trapped underground when part of the San Jose copper and gold mine, in the Atacama desert, collapsed.

A second collapse two days later hampered rescue efforts and blocked access to the lower parts of the mine.

Rescue teams drilled boreholes and sent down listening probes. Seventeen days after the accident, a note from the miners attached to one of the probes was found.

It read: “Estamos bien en el refugio los 33” – “All 33 of us are well inside the shelter.”

The men, who had survived on rations for 17 days, were sent emergency supplies and fresh water down the borehole.

The miners split into groups and established shift patterns for tasks including clearing the debris falling from the pilot rescue hole, and unloading supplies – which included 33 Bibles requested by Jose Henriquez.

Relations and friends of the 33 gathered at the mine in an area dubbed Campo Esperanza, or Camp Hope.

Families lived in tents, while a school for the children was set up nearby.

The final rescue mission lasted 22 hours and 42 minutes.

On their way out, each miner in the Phoenix capsule wore an oxygen mask, and dark glasses to avoid eye damage after emerging from the darkness.

When they finally came to the surface, some claimed that a mysterious 34th man had been with them in the mine and shared their ordeal.

The 34th Man is the name of Jose Henriquez’s tour of the UK, which takes in many former mining areas such as the Durham Coalfield.

The event at Durham Cathedral starts at 6.30pm. Tickets are free, but seating is limited.