18 Nov 2010

Chile miners can lead ‘normal lives’, says Andes survivor

One of the Uruguayan rugby team, who spent 70 days in the Andes mountains following the 1972 plane crash, tells Channel 4 News about counselling the Chilean miners.

The remarkable story of Pedro Algorta and his team-mates was turned into a film.

It is a feat of survival which rivals the tale of the Chile miners.

Pedro, and 15 others, spent 70 days in the Andes, following a plane crash in 1972, never knowing if they would be rescued.

After 10 days they ran out of food and were forced to turn to cannibalism: “We wanted to live, we wanted to stay alive and we realised the only source of energy was the dead bodies of our friends, so we started eating the dead bodies of our friends.

“That was not such a difficult decision because we wanted to live.”

The Chile miners were rescued in October

Helping the Chile miners

Pedro Algorta flew to Chile earlier this year when he heard the trapped miners had been found alive.

His objective was to support the families and reassure them the men would come out alive and could go on to live a normal life.

We danced and sang songs with them. We embraced them. We felt very close to the families Pedro Algorta

“When we got to Chile we realised our presence was enough testimony of what we wanted to say..they saw that we were normal people.

“They saw that we had been able to construct a life after what happened in the mountain and if we had been able to do it, these guys were also going to have the possibility of doing it.

“We talked to them, they told us what their fears were and what was going to come after.

“We just received a beautiful reception from these people. We danced and sang songs with them. We embraced them. We felt very close to the families who were going through the same situation as our families were experiencing 38 years ago.”

Coping mentally

Pedro Algorta told Channel 4 News the miners’ celebratory status will pass and that life for them won’t be much more difficult or easier than it was before the accident.

“In my case for 35 years I didn’t talk about it publically, I just kept it for me and it was a private issue.

“My family knew about it everybody knew about it but I didn’t speak about it openly.

“Then at a moment in time I thought it was going to be good for me, and I could do some good for others, if I talked about it.

“I don’t think that people should be pressed too much to speak about it. They’re going to have their time and when the time comes they have to speak about it.”