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Chile's Miners Return Home As Heroes

Carlos Barrios, one of the 33 rescued San Jose miners, hugs a friend on his return home in Copiapo.
Thirty-one of the 33 miners pulled to safety this week in an unprecedented Chilean rescue operation have returned home to a hero's welcome.

Two of the miners, who spent more than two months deep in a collapsed mine, remain hospitalized for what were described as minor ailments.

Despite some concerns about his health, Mario Gomez, at 63 the oldest of the group, was discharged after just two days in the hospital and said he felt good.

"I feel very good, very good, emotional, emotional, emotional," he said as family and friends cheered his arrival in Copiapo, a small town that's home to many of the miners.

Keeping Details Private

Gomez kept silent on details of the 69-day ordeal some 625 meters deep in the gold and copper mine under Chile's Atacama desert.

"We are not going to talk about that," he told reporters.

In another part of Copiapo, miner Victor Segovia received an equally emotional welcome as he arrived to a house packed with celebrating neighbors, relatives and friends.

Segovia appeared tired and relieved.

"I'm happy, happy to be here at home after two months without seeing my family, my daughter, and my father, who is sick," Segovia said.

Like the other miners, Segovia was tight-lipped about the nightmare experience in the mine.

"There were problems, like there are in all families," he said. "When there's too much time together, problems start -- fights -- but it was nothing serious."

The men were initially believed to have died after the mine caved in on August 5. But rescuers found them 17 days later, when a face appeared on a camera boring through the underground wreckage and the miners sent a message up saying they were all alive.

They have since become global media stars. Book and movie deals are expected, which could help account for their reluctance to reveal too much about what happened inside the mine.

Some relatives have also hinted at a pact of silence between the men over the worst of the trauma.

Fame And Misfortune

Although most of the miners are in surprisingly good health, psychologists warned that the experience could leave them with lasting psychological scars.

Alberto Iturra, a psychologist for Chile's workplace safety agency, says the media glare could complicate their recovery.

"In the mine, they were in their place," Iturra said. "Now, everybody thinks they have a piece of them."

Chilean Health Minister Jaime Manalich said on October 15 that some of the miners were in a "delicate" psychological situation and would need some time to adjust to their new lives out of the mine.

"They are going to have a very hard time from the psychological point of view," he told reporters, adding that authorities would offer miners psychological counseling for at least six months.

Many of the miners plan to return to the mine on October 17 for a ceremony marking their ordeal.

compiled from agency reports