Uruguayans who survived 72 days in snow-covered mountains tell Chilean miners’ kin: Be strong

By Peter Prengaman, AP
Saturday, September 4, 2010

‘Alive’ survivors to Chilean mining kin: Be strong

SAN JOSE MINE, Chile — Former rugby players from Uruguay who survived more than two months of isolation in the snow-covered Andes met on Saturday with some of the relatives of 33 trapped miners and urged them to stay strong.

“They will be out soon,” said Jose Inciarte, one of the four plane crash survivors visiting the San Jose copper and gold mine in northern Chile. “The whole world is with them.”

The men communicated with miners by video, urging to appreciate the relative good fortune that nobody died in the partial tunnel collapse at the mine Aug. 5. They also said that they were moved by the miners’ fortitude.

“There is little similar between our story and theirs,” Inciarte said. “Theirs is more beautiful because they are all alive.”

Fellow survivor Gustavo Zerbino, who waved an Uruguayan flag, said to the extent possible the miners should “enjoy themselves.”

“Nobody died,” he said.

After speaking with the miners, the men presented an Uruguayan flag, which they said they would leave at the camp as a symbol of Latin American solidarity. “Viva, Chile!” they yelled.

Inciarte and Zerbino were among 16 Uruguayans who survived a plane crash in the snow-covered Andean peaks in 1972. They waited 72 days to be rescued, and some were forced to eat the flesh of friends killed in the crash to stay alive. Their story inspired the book and movie “Alive.”

“They fought so hard for their lives,” Maria Segovia, sister of trapped miner Dario Segovia, said as she hugged some of the visitors. “Seeing them makes my heart so happy.”

Just a handful of miners’ relatives received the Uruguayans; many have started to come and go as rescuers pursue what could be a monthslong process of digging a tunnel big enough to extract the miners. Relatives had held a constant vigil for the 17 days it took rescuers to make their first contact with the miners.

The four ex-players arrived Friday in the Chilean capital, Santiago, and met with President Sebastian Pinera.

(This version CORRECTS spelling of rugby player’s name to Zerbino, not Servino.)

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