News / Americas

Chilean Miners Exhibit Signs of Depression

Chile's health minister says five of the 33 miners who have been trapped underground for three weeks are struggling with depression.

Jaime Manalich described the five men Friday as "isolated" and "not eating well."  He said a psychiatrist would attempt to treat the men over an intercom system dropped to them.

Rescuers are preparing to drill a shaft in an effort to evacuate the men who have been trapped since a mine collapse.

Officials said Friday the excavation work is expected to begin within days and will take about four months.  

Video footage shot by the miners has been broadcast around the world.  Most of the men shown were shirtless and sported thick facial hair.  Some spoke individually into the camera.

On Thursday, relatives of one of the miners filed a lawsuit against the mine's owner.  The family sued the San Esteban mining company, citing negligence in the accident that left the workers trapped more than 600 meters underground.  The mine has a history of accidents and was shut down in recent years for safety reasons before being reopened.

A Chilean judge also froze $1.8 million in revenue from the mine Thursday as a precautionary measure as the company indicated it may declare bankruptcy.

The workers became trapped when part of the gold and copper mine collapsed on August 5.  Rescuers first made contact with them on Sunday.  Officials organizing the rescue say some of the miners will have to lose weight to fit through the rescue shaft.

Two narrow holes have been drilled to communicate with the men and deliver food and other supplies to them, including games and antidepressants.  The men have used the holes to send messages to loved ones.

Chile has asked the U.S. space agency and Chile's submarine fleet for tips on survival in extreme, confined conditions.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.

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