Chilean miners had considered suicide and cannibalism while underground

The 33 miners whose rescue last year after 69 days inside a collapsed Chilean mine was watched with awe around the world at times pondered suicide and cannibalism while some among them found brief solace through marijuana smuggled to them in letters from wives, it emerged yesterday.

While the terror of their ordeal was never doubted, only now are details emerging of how close the men came to giving up hope or turning against each other. Four months later all but one of them is suffering nightmares and significant emotional problems as they try to readjust again to normal life.

The thoughts of suicide came to some of the men in their darkest moments before Day 16 when first contact was made with rescue teams on the surface. Victor Zamora, one of the survivors, spoke of suicide in an interview broadcast in the US last night on the CBS current affairs magazine, 60 Minutes.

"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,'" said Mr Zamora, noting that everyone would have agreed with it had the first rescue shaft not made it through on the 16th day, adding that it wouldn't really have been suicide. "It was to not continue suffering. We were going to die anyway."

Once they had a direct line to the surface, the men began asking for items to make their incarceration more bearable. One, according to a new book by New York Times reporter Jonathan Franklin, was for inflatable sex dolls, but that was turned down because doctors feared they'd trigger jealousy between the men.

But what did make it into the crumbled mine, according to the soon-to-be published book called The 33, was marijuana. But the drugs were getting only to some of the men and those left out soon realised what was going and grew angry over that also.

"They were peeling away from the group in small cliques, wandering towards the bathroom. They never even offered me a toke," Samuel Avalos, another of the miners, says in the book, excerpts of which are being serialised in The Sunday Times. "When you saw five of them headed up to the bathroom, you knew what they were doing."

Mario Sepulveda, one of the leaders of the trapped group, told CBS that he was among those who contemplated cannibalism. "Food or no food, I was going to get out of there... 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."

Mr Franklin, the author of the book who also spoke on the CBS programme, says that he was told that they "had a pot and a saw ready" in case eating one of their own became necessary.

His book also reveals that serious hitches occurred during the rescue which lasted many hours. The Chilean authorities had at times spliced in old clips of the rescue so television viewers around the world wouldn't notice. It also suggests that the President of Chile, Sebastian Pinera, sought to ride down to the bottom of the mine with the first capsule to meet the miners before they came up. He was turned down.

So difficult have been the weeks and months since the rescue that Mr Zamora sometimes wishes he hadn't made it. "I can't have a normal relationship with my family. I'm not as affectionate with my child," he told 60 Minutes. "Before I went in, I was a happy guy," he adds, describing endless nightmares he now has. "Being trapped, watching my friends around me die, rocks falling," he says. "The other me is still in there."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Angel Di Maria is shown the red card
Roger Federer after his win over Tomas Berdych
Life and Style
News in briefs: big pants in 'Bridget Jones's Diary'
fashionBig knickers are back
James Milner is set to sign for Liverpool this week despite rival interest from Arsenal
sportReds baulk at Benteke £32.5m release clause
The controversial Motor Neurone Disease Association poster, featuring sufferer Michael Smith, has drawn a series of angry complaints
newsThis one has been criticised for its 'threatening tone'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Financial Reporting Manager

£70000 - £90000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Financial Reporting Manager i...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executives - OTE £25,000

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A young, vibrant and growing co...

Recruitment Genius: Junior Software Developer - C# .Net

£18500 - £23500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: While some fundamental programm...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Software Developer - C# .Net

£23500 - £28500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are looking for someone wi...

Day In a Page

On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview
When do the creative juices dry up?

When do the creative juices dry up?

David Lodge thinks he knows
The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

Fashion's Cher moment

Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

Saving Private Brandt

A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral