Chilean miners reveal thoughts of suicide and cannibalism

MINERS who were trapped for 69 days beneath the Chilean desert have revealed that they thought of mass suicide and even cannibalism during their ordeal.

The plight of the men touched millions of people worldwide and their eventual rescue, after being winched up individually in a capsule in a specially-drilled borehole, was seen as a triumph of the human spirit. The men have since been feted as heroes at home and abroad, some have become guests of honour at Manchester United and Real Madrid football matches and one appeared at the National Television Awards.

But now some of the men have revealed the darker thoughts that they were prey to in an American television special that is to be screened today.

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The men had been underground for more than a fortnight before any sign came from the surface. By then they were down to one can of tuna from which each got a teaspoonful every 48 hours.

Mario Sepulveda, who became the face of the miners' ordeal because he appeared on the camera sent down as a means of communication with the outside world while the rescue attempt got underway, has revealed his thoughts on how to avoid starvation.

"Food or no food, I was going to get out of there," he says.

"I had to think about which miner was going to collapse first and then I started thinking about how I was going to eat him… I wasn't embarrassed, I wasn't scared."

Others were having different thoughts. Victor Zamora, aged just 31, disclosed: "I said to a friend, 'Well, if we are going to continue suffering, it would be better for us to all go to the refuge, start an engine and, with the carbon monoxide, just let ourselves go'."

"I think all of us felt that way. At that moment it wasn't really committing suicide, it was to not continue suffering. We were going to die anyway."

He adds: "Before I went in, I was a happy guy. Being trapped, watching my friends around me die, rocks falling… the other me is still in there."

Doctors say that all but one of the 33 miners have experienced severe psychological issues since the ordeal.

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Some describe continuing anxiety, including fear of small spaces and loud noises. Others have struggled to rebuild the relationships they once had with friends and family members.

A makeshift tented town dubbed Camp Hope sprang up around the San Jose mine, and Chilean president Sebastian Pera was there for the final events.

The men were trapped on 5 August last year after the main shaft in the gold and copper mine, half a mile beneath the Atacama desert, collapsed.

The men had to adhere to a strict exercise regime after food was passed down to them to keep their weight down so that they would fit in the escape capsule.