World media gear up for Chilean mine rescue

Media checking their view at the mine The story of the 33 trapped miners has attracted worldwide attention

At the San Jose mine, the story of the 33 trapped miners has been described by more than one journalist as the global human interest story of the year.

The 32 Chileans and one Bolivian have become a media phenomenon, and each one of the men has a different and often fascinating tale to tell.

There is Franklin Lobos, the one-time star footballer in the national top division - famous for his powerful free kicks.

Jonny Barrios - whose care for his diabetic mother when he was a child led to him being the miners' unofficial doctor underground.

Mario Gomez - at 63 the oldest of the men, who has been in the mining industry since the age of 12 - wrote the now famous note: "Estamos bien en el refugio los 33 - All 33 of us are fine in the refuge".

His wife, Lilian Ramirez, is a stalwart of Camp Hope and has done interviews with perhaps hundreds of international TV networks, newspapers and magazines.

And there is Mario Sepulveda, whose face has become familiar in front of the camera, as the guide to the men's underground home.

As Claudio Ibanez, one of the psychologists with the rescue team, told the BBC: "He will be a star."

Swift progress

But the story that everyone wants to hear is first-person accounts from the men themselves about their ordeal underground.

On Friday, Chile's Minister of Mines, Laurence Golborne, told the assembled media that the official estimate of the rescue date was to be brought forward, to "the second half of October".

And progress on the second rescue attempt - Plan B - has been swift. It had reached a depth of 428 metres on Saturday morning after cutting through 56 metres of rock in 24 hours.

Improvised stages for TV lives down in Camp Hope The world's media are getting ready for the moment when the miners emerge from the ground

It is therefore feasible that the rescue could be just a week to 10 days away.

So the scramble is now on for live TV positions, space to set up satellite dishes and room for media teams to eat and sleep both up at the camp and down in the local town of Copiapo.

Hotel rooms are suddenly hard to come by in the town, and rental cars are running at a premium.

And the mine is isolated - it is up to an hour's drive from the town, in the middle of the Atacama desert.

With the rescue operation expected to take around two days to complete, many reporters, producers and technicians will be camping out, expecting to work around the clock for several days.

At the mine itself, the government is rushing to put an infrastructure in place to deal with the large teams of international broadcasters expected to arrive in the coming week.

Until now, the smaller teams have improvised, putting up tents and gazebos amongst the rocks below the mine and hooking up satellite dishes to generators.

World glare

Next week, though, that will change.

A large platform has been carved out of the side of the hill above the mine that will offer a bird's eye view of the rescue operations.

Tomas Urzua, head of the Chilean government's international press unit, told the BBC that the government would be providing electricity outlets every four metres along the platform, a stable wi-fi connection and a press office, where ministers and the rescue team will provide regular updates on progress.

In Santiago, the government's press team is receiving hundreds of enquiries about accreditation from around the world.

Start Quote

That's what family is for: to take care of him, to protect him, and to love him”

End Quote Maria Herrera Sister of trapped miner Daniel Herrera

From the US alone, teams of up to 30 are on their way from NBC, ABC, CNN, Fox, Telemundo and Univision.

From the UK, ITN, Sky and Five News are sending teams, in addition to the BBC. The government's Santiago press office has received applications from more than 300 individuals and are expecting many more.

Add to this the sizeable contingent from the Chilean media and the pressure on space and resources will be intense.

And the race will be on for direct access to the miners themselves and their families. Rumours abound in the camp of families signing contracts with broadcasters, though that has not been possible to confirm.

Some families are simply hoping that the rescue does not turn into a global reality TV show.

"One doesn't want to be seen crying in front of the cameras," Maria Herrera told the BBC. Her younger brother, Daniel, is underground. She is aware that the media glare might be too much for him.

But she says he has his priorities straight, and that she will be there for him when he makes it out above ground.

"That's what family is for," she says. "To take care of him, to protect him, and to love him."

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