Chilean miner speaks in Woodford Green

A SURVIVOR of the Chilean mining disaster received a hero’s welcome when he visited Woodford Green at the weekend.

Jose Henriquez, one of 33 miners who was trapped underground, spoke about the 69-day ordeal at All Saints Church, Inmans Row.

More than 600 people packed into the church on Saturday and Sunday to hear Mr Henriquez, who was joined by wife Blanca Hettiz Berrios, give a first-hand account of what happened and explain how he kept himself together.

Wearing a navy suit, Mr Henriquez, 56, appeared calm as he took questions from Bishop Henry Scriven of the Church Mission Society (CMS).

His answers were interpreted by Alf Cooper, chaplain to the president of Chile who was present throughout the rescue attempt.


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Describing the moment the mine caved in Mr Henriquez said: “We had worked from 9am until 2pm and it was time to go up for lunch.

“Suddenly there was a deafening explosion of rock followed by a powerful shockwave.

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“I was in the shelter when it happened and an enormous dust cloud formed which remained for four hours.

“I was terrified and feared for the safety of my colleagues but one by one, every man emerged from the cloud and we began urgently looking for an escape.

“We soon realised there was no human way out and held a grim but important meeting about how we were going to survive.”

He added: “We never wanted to go down there as it sounded creaky.

“We had told the owner we were not happy and that it was unsafe but he didn’t listen.”

The visit was set up through All Saints’ charity work in Chile which will see a new church built in a deprived area in Santiago.

For news special see The Recorder on Thursday.

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