Chilean miner haunted by being buried alive 'wakes up screaming at 4am'

The world breathed a sigh of relief when the last of the 33 trapped Chilean miners was winched to safety.

At least a billion people watched footage of the heroic men being ­reunited, one by one, with tearful relatives after the harrowing ordeal.

They had spent 69 days trapped in suffocating heat, half a mile underground after rocks collapsed.

Afterwards everyone wanted to hear their stories and the men toured the world. In 2015 there was a book, Deep Dark Down, about their escape.

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And a film, The 33, starring Antonio Banderas and Juliette Binoche.

The disaster at the San Jose copper and gold mine brought some fame to the men but little fortune.

And ten years on from the cave-in at least one of their number is still haunted by being buried alive.

In his first UK interview, dad-of-two Jorge Galleguillos, now 66, reveals how the trauma has left lasting scars.



Chilean miner haunted by being buried alive 'wakes up screaming at 4am'

He said: “I rarely sleep more than three hours a night.

“I often wake up screaming at 4am, thinking I’m back in the mine with no hope of ever seeing my children again.”

The date of August 19, 2010, is forever etched on his memory.

It was two weeks after the collapse and the men’s hope turned to despair when a probe sent to find them missed by inches.



Chilean miner haunted by being buried alive 'wakes up screaming at 4am'

Jorge said: “We were very down that day.

“The drill was so close we could hear it whining overhead but it passed and we were left ­sitting in the dark wondering if we’d ever be found.

“I remember the sorrow and uncertainty of being locked up and having no idea when we were going to get out.

“There was space to move around in our refuge but no light and little air and it was hot, around 29C, so we had to take care of each other.”



Chilean miner haunted by being buried alive 'wakes up screaming at 4am'

Mercifully, three days later a drill found the men, who taped a note to it which read: “We are well in the shelter, the 33”.

Then, in Chile’s Atacama Desert near Copiapo, one of the most ­extraordinary rescue missions of all time got under way.

A drill hole meant the men could be sent ­life-saving packages of food and water, as well as letters from loved ones to lift their spirits.

Jorge said: “For the first time we had real hope we were going to be rescued. We were sent clean clothes and cleaning supplies.



Chilean miner haunted by being buried alive 'wakes up screaming at 4am'

“From that moment a new life began.

“We passed the days playing dominoes, ­listening to Mexican music and ­reading letters from loved ones.

“A geologist sent me a ­harmonica.

“It caused me to break down in tears.

“I still have it and all the letters and gifts I received. The first time I heard from my children was a moment of pure emotion.”

Jorge, who suffered from hypertension, was the 11th to be rescued in a tiny capsule.



Chilean miner haunted by being buried alive 'wakes up screaming at 4am'

It took nearly 24 hours to bring up all the men.

Jorge said they were only paid the equivalent of £933 each by the film’s producers and received next to ­nothing from the book.

He said: “People think we are ­millionaires but it’s not true.

“The government has given us very little compensation, only the bare ­minimum, and the mining company has turned its backs on us despite all the promises.

“All I have been left with is debts and ill health but still people will stop me in the street and shout: ‘Hey Mr Big Bucks,’ as if I am rich.

“Sadly I don’t have much ­communication with my old ­colleagues from those days.

“In the mine we were like brothers.

“If I see another one of 33 out and about and I’ll say hello but that is it.”

Jorge runs a tourist attraction at the now abandoned mine and gives lectures and tours. But that had to close because of the pandemic. 

He said: “I have been fighting but it is tough because I have so many expenses and wages to pay and ­without support I am at risk of ­losing it all.

“I am determined to keep going. It is so important that the world does not forget what happened here in 2010.”

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