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Amateur Radio Operators Provide Communications Support During Chilean Mine Rescue

10/14/2010

As the last of the 33 miners who were trapped 2300 feet deep inside (and 3 miles from the mine entrance) the San José Mine -- located about 27 miles from the Chilean town of Copiapó in the Atacama Desert -- rose to the surface at 0055 UTC on October 14, the world cheered in unison. The miners, who were underground for 69 days -- the longest time ever for miners to be trapped and survive -- all emerged relatively healthy.

According to the Radio Cub de Chile (RCCH) -- that country’s IARU Member-Society -- amateurs with the Radio Club Copiapó, CE1CPI, provided communication support between the authorities and emergency equipment operators inside the San Jose Mine complex, as well as with family of the trapped miners in the complex and authorities in Copiapó. “There are no other means of communication at the scene,” said Radio Club Copiapó President Jose Maldonado Lazo, CE1RXY. “The group is working in the area of the mine with three phones, while amateurs in Copiapó “are covering all the needs of SENCO [a construction company], SAMU [ambulance and EMT], the Interior Administration and the fire and police departments. We do this gladly and hope that this has a happy ending.

According to Erico José Andrade, CE2EPB, Radio Club Copiapó has a lot of equipment, enabling the club to cover almost all of the Atacama Region: “This helped effectively from the outset after the accident, because the mine complex where the emergency occurred did not have contact with ordinary phones that could coordinate the rescue effort in the shortest time possible.”

Some of the 80 members of Radio Club Copiapó installed amateur equipment in the mine complex, and volunteers from the club have, from the moment the mine collapse first occurred on August 5, have taken shifts to provide communication support. “This, together with additional mobile police stations, hospitals and fire battalions, kept everyone abreast of all the needs and urgent requirements,” Andrade explained.



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