|The successful rescue provided the world with one of most thrilling stories of the year [AFP]
The hysteria generated by an event in a remote part of northern Chile can perhaps only be explained by human nature: by the thirst to be uplifted and witness a rare story with a spectacular ending.
Chileans were just beginning to pick themselves up from one of the strongest earthquakes ever registered when, on August 5, the country was again struck by disaster.
In the desolate, mineral-rich Atacama desert region, a copper-gold mine had collapsed, leaving 33 miners trapped inside.
Days went by without rescuers being able to trace the status of the miners underground. Many began to believe they had died 700 metres deep into the San Jose Mine, if not from the accident, then out of hunger and thirst.
On day 17 of the rescue operation, a handwritten note attached to one of the perforating drills read: “We are all 33 alive in the shelter”.
The miners' families, who had been camped outside since day one, cried for joy along with all of Chile as news spread across the globe.
Overnight, the miners families were joined in Camp Hope by more than two thousand international journalists, who had come to cover one of, if not the most extraordinary rescue operation in recent memory.
The world watched with bated breath as the stories of each and every one of the miners, including their families, their infidelities, strengths, courage, health problems and traumas, became household gossip.
The rescue operation itself was a feat of engineering magic, down to the red, white and blue Phoenix capsule that lifted the miners to the surface 70 days after the accident.
Very rarely have television audiences witnessed a rescue such as this: cameras filming every smile and tear of joy, including the miners getting into the capsule from the belly of the earth. More than one billion people across the globe followed the live rescue act, mesmerised.
The media hype around the story was immense, not just because of its scope, but because it belied the common belief that good news is not news. It was such a huge story because it lifted the spirits of even the most cynical, and for at least a short time, seemed to put a smile on faces of people the world over.