Latin America & Caribbean

Andes survivors play rugby 40 years after disaster

Uruguayan survivors of the 13 Oct 1972 in the Andes
Image caption Former members of the Uruguayan rugby club honour their friends who died in the 1972 plane crash

Survivors of a plane crash in the Andes who were kept alive by eating the bodies of the victims have played a rugby match in Chile to mark the 40th anniversary of the accident.

The Uruguayan team was travelling from Montevideo to Santiago to play against against a local team when their plane crashed in 1972.

Sixteen of the 45 passengers survived in sub-zero temperatures for 72 days.

Twelve members of the Uruguayan team travelled to Chile to play the match.

"I think the sadness of eating a dead human body was the greatest sadness of my entire life," crash survivor Roberto Canessa told the Associated Press news agency.

But he said preserving a human life justified eating human flesh: "I would want the same thing done if it had been my body dead on the ground."

Rescue operation

Now in their 60s, the former members of Uruguayan amateur rugby club Christian Brothers held a minute of silence and unveiled a plaque with the photos of those who died in the crash on 13 October 1972.

Image caption Alfredo Daniel Delgado Salaberri, also known as Pancho, scores the first try

The same Chilean helicopter that was used to rescue them re-enacted the operation before the match in Santiago.

They were located after two passengers took a chance and left on a 10-day trek.

The farmer who first spotted them and called the emergency services also attended the event.

On Friday, they were received at the presidential palace by Chilean President Sebastian Pinera.

Crash survivor Daniel Fernandez said the experience taught him how adaptable and resilient human beings can be.

"If somebody had told me that 'You're going to be put on a mountain, at an altitude of 4,000m (13,000ft), at 20C below zero, wearing short sleeves,' I would have said 'I'd survive 10 minutes'. But I survived 72 days."