|The rescued miners have been hailed as heroes in Chile, and showered with gifts from around the world [AFP]|
All but two of the the 33 miners rescued in Chile after more than two months trapped underground, have been released from hospital and allowed to go home.
Two men were receiving medical treatment on Friday – one for vertigo, the other for dental work – and officials said that they had be transferred to another hospital for specialised treatment.
Doctors gave the other 31 men clean bills of health, just two days after they were evacuated from the collapsed San Jose mine near the town of Copiapo.
Throughout the rescue operation, and in the days and weeks before, hundreds of journalists descended on the collapsed mine site to cover the dramatic story, and have kept the spotlight on the rescued men.
“It could have all been avoided. Why do these things have to happen? Because the employer to make money tells the worker to “just go on in”…”
Edison Pena, rescue miner
Experts have said the 32 Chileans and one Bolivian could have lasting emotional or psychological damage from the traumatic experience, which would be further complicated by the extensive media coverage.
“In the mine, they were in their place,” Alberto Iturra, a psychologist for Chile’s workplace safety agency, said. “Now, everybody thinks they have a piece of them.”
Lucia Newman, Al Jazeera’s Latin America editor, citing doctors said most of the miners were physically fit and have reacted remarkably well to sunlight after removing the sunglasses they had to wear upon reaching the surface.
Some, however, were suffering from anxiety and sleeping disorders, which doctors say were completely normal and was expected.
Edison Pena, one of the rescued miners, told Al Jazeera he was very angry about the whole incident.
“It could have all been avoided. Why do these things have to happen… because the employer to make money tells the worker “just go on in”. The mountain is making noises but no… “go on in, go on in”… that’s way. I don’t want to be polemical but I’m really angry.”
Showered with gifts
The miners have received numerous offers of gifts, including $10,000 in cash from a local businessman, Apple ipods, paid trips to European football matches and a Greek island, and some have been approached for possible book and film deals.
Relatives say the men have agreed to pool the proceeds for any such deals and awards, so that the benefits would be shared equally.
The men were trapped on August 5 by a huge rock collapse inside the mine, with rescue workers only finding out they were still alive on August 22.
In that interim period before they knew when help would come, the miners said the would ration themselves to a tiny spoonful of tinned tuna or salmon each day.
“We were waiting for death,” Richard Villarroel, one of the rescued miners, told journalists. “We were wasting away. We were so skinny. I lost 26 pounds. I was afraid of not meeting my baby, who is on the way. That was what I was most waiting for.”
He said only once the rescue effort began could they joke about some of their darkest fears, like cannibalism.
“Once [help came] it became a topic of joking, but only once it was over, once they found us,” he said.