Nicotine patches and nasa experts

The Chilean miners, who may remain trapped in their tunnel until Christmas, are struggling with physical and psychological problems

Since the 5. August, 33 miners are trapped in a nearly 700-meter-deep tunnel in the Chilean Atacama Desert. Since pipes could be drilled to transport food, their chances of survival are basically not bad. For the first 17 days of their captivity, the workers had lived on what were supposed to be two days’ worth of supplies. Shift leader Luis Urzúa had limited the rations given out at 48-hour intervals to one can of canned fish, half a cookie, a piece of peach and a sip of milk, causing those trapped to lose up to ten kilograms of weight per person.

The food problem is now solved. However, it could take until Christmas for the miners to be freed from their captivity. This week, work has begun with a special drill, but it can advance only between 8 and 20 meters per day, among other things, to avoid further damage. In addition, a 33-centimeter-wide hole must first be pre-drilled before the actual opening twice as wide can be cleared, through which a transport capsule for the workers is then to be sent into the shaft.

So far, the trapped workers blob know that the rescue will take longer than until the 18. September will last. The Chilean Minister of Health, Jaime Manalich, said that the trapped people have not yet been informed of the actual estimates of the duration of the rescue operation with regard to their psychological condition, although wires have been laid in the supply pipes through which they communicate with the underwater world.

The miners can also send messages to Auben through the pipeline: One of them proposed to his wife, who had only been married in a civil ceremony, for a second wedding, this time in a church. Others asked for alcohol, prompting newspaper reports speculating whether they included addicts. This was only surprising to a limited extent: High alcohol consumption has a tradition not only in steel mills, but also in mines, which, among other things, helped to shape the image of the Ruhr region.

However, Manalich sharply rejected such speculations and explained the fact that the miners were the first to demand beer with the euphoria over the success of the establishment of a communication link. There are, according to the Minister of Health, no known difficulties with the withdrawal of alcohol, nor with that of other addictive substances. Later, however, he had to admit that there was apparently an alcoholic among the 33. The extent to which his body still craves the addictive substance after four weeks of cold turkey is questionable, however. However, the dependence of thirteen smokers caused actual problems. Nine of them suffered from such severe withdrawal symptoms that nicotine patches were sent to them through the supply pipes.

The trapped people tried to counteract fungal diseases caused by humidity and heat by retreating to a room 300 meters below, where the climate is somewhat more skin-friendly. The move, however, did little to alleviate the anxiety and depression that afflicted at least five of the workers. Their number could potentially increase with the long wait for rescue. So far, however, the experience with such situations is missing. The record set last year by three Chinese miners who had to wait 25 days to be rescued has already been broken by the Chileans.

Meanwhile, four NASA experts who traveled to South America are sharing the knowledge they gained from assisting astronauts to ensure that the San Jose mine workers do not fall victim to pit fever. Specially selected films, which the trapped people can watch, should also contribute to the preservation of hope. And also the notice to the miners that they would be able to get back to their work by clearing away the treasured 4.000 tons of scaffolding can contribute to their rapid liberation has the desired side effect of giving the trapped people something to do so that they can better withstand the long wait.

In the meantime, the accident also claimed its first political pawn: Raúl MartInez, who was responsible for health policy in the Atacama region and who died in this capacity on 28 September 2009. In this capacity, he approved the restart of the mine, which had been closed after a serious accident, on July 28. The government also promised that supervision of the mines would be placed in the hands of a new authority to be created. The extent to which this will be able to limit the political influence of the mining companies, which are very important for the country’s economy, is another matter, of course.

At the behest of relatives of the buried miners, a court in Copiapo has meanwhile decided to freeze state payments to CompanIa Minera San Esteban Primera, which claimed copper and gold from the collapsed San Jose mine. Die vom Rechtsanwalt Anwalt Edgardo Reinoso vertretenen 26 Familien befurchten, dass das Unternehmen versuchen konnte, sich Forderungen nach Schadensersatz zu entziehen.

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