A mining brigade, almost in danger of extinction, to remove Julen from the well in Totalán

They are only eight "guajes". Eight discreet, quiet and "strong as bulls", who dwell like ghosts in a hotel in Rincón de la Victoria (Málaga) and who live to face


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Excavation work to rescue Julen when the night has fallen in Totalán Jon NazcaREUTERS

Julen rescue: a medical helicopter moves to the well

The mountain that swallowed Julen and does not let go: Cerro de la Corona

They are only eight "guajes". Eight discreet, quiet and "strong as bulls", who live like ghosts in a hotel in Rincón de la Victoria ( Málaga ) and who live to face death. The one that took some of his relatives - "several of those who go down have dead in the mine" -, the one that stalks the little Julen -11 days buried underground-, and even the one who wants to take his job forever .

Because less than a month after the closing of 99% of coal mines in Spain , chance (or not) has wanted the entire country to turn to these eight Asturian miners, custodians of a century-old culture, and implore them to take out the small Julen Roselló , of two years old and uncertain state after 11 days there buried, of the hole in which it is, 70 meters underground. And they, as they command what they have sucked, "come down and they will take it out, of course they will take it out, how they will not get it out," says Santiago Suárez , who headed the Mining Rescue Brigade between 2005 and 2009. " Be at level 70 or below, you do not really know where you are, "he says.

Created in 1912 and may be fatal wound with the closure of the mines to which for decades thousands of men came to work with a wine boot hanging from the shoulder - "but a long time ago no, eh?" -, the Brigade, a legend of surrender and sacrifice for anyone who has set foot in the Asturian Mining Basins , is preparing to provide what will be, perhaps, his last service.

"It would be sad if all this were lost," says Santiago, and his voice trembles. "This", beyond the technical heritage referred to by this 54-year-old miner, is easily summarized: in this world of the Internet, big data and artificial intelligence, to get Julen "only one thing is worth it, did you hear?" A young man, like a century ago, some kids who blindly trust each other, and pim-pim-pim go pick and shovel to get the kid out, neither technology nor milk, it's the man against the stone, and helped by others Men, to death, because the stone will be hard, that's what I tell you, which is why it has taken these days to get there. "

In the end, these supermen were able to live four hours with almost no oxygen, digging lying down half a kilometer underground, and crossing a tube 50 centimeters wide and three meters long with a team of 15 kilos on the back (one of their more demanding exercises), have the "most powerful weapon of all" to say Santiago: the "companionship, blindly trust in the other, knowing that whatever happens will take you out of there," he says in full chill.

And it almost suggests a generic memory that passes from grandparents to parents and from parents to children, in a loop perhaps condemned by the times and by Polish coal - cheaper and easier to extract than Spanish for 40 years. "If the work of miners is very hard, the Brigade is almost more", Santiago dares, with a certain pregnancy. "A miner knows that his partner is going to do the impossible to get him out of there, but when everything fails, when you have to run away and you get beyond the impossible, the Brigade appears there."

The hard work of these guys, who "end up forming a core as closed as a family of how much they depend on each other down there", is well illustrated with what is their other teammate down there, this time technician: Teams of Respiración Autónoma that they will use to reach Julen, a "trasto" of almost 15 kilos and that "can not be handled by the firemen", says Santiago.

While the devices used in the fight against fire have a breathing autonomy of 30 minutes with their equipment, the "trasto" of the Brigade, which has given seminars on its use "all over the world", arrives at four hours with a mechanism as complex as scorching: the miners breathe pure, "medicinal" oxygen, from their bottle, and right there they return it, passing it through a lime cartridge that removes the carbon dioxide. In short, they breathe their own oxygen for four hours, but at unbearable temperatures due to the chemical process. "People can not stand it ... But these kids, with years of training ... Well yes," he finishes.

Along with all that, nerves of steel, says Celso González , 58 years old, in the Brigade from 1992 to 2003: "Down there what you can not get nervous, you have to be extremely calm, because your partner's life depends on you ... That's why you see the kids enter the mine very happy, animated ... But once inside ... Oh, my friend! The mine, let yourself be very templao ", ditch, for all explanation.

The Brigade, based on what remains of the well Fondón , in Sama de Langreo ( Asturias ), also works a lot "the paleo, do constant exercises with the shovel, which in the end is the tool they will use to dig as fast possible". In turns of 30/45 minutes, working "on their knees, thrown or as they can", the miners work in pairs. They will communicate with each other and with the surface with interphones. They will make minivoladuras with microexplosivos that does not break but it fragments the rock. Hit with a hammer of four kilos of compressed air. In 24 hours maximum. "We'll see what it takes to do that, here there are no plans or coordinates, they go blind," says Santiago. "It's all a mystery, people like to know everything, but down there, inside the earth, you know very little, but once they start they do not stop, the advantage is that inside is always dark, for us not there is night or day. "

Of those who start the tasks, "the first one will stay in the elevator while the other opens the way, and when they have a bit of ground they will begin to post, to place poles to hold up and that the earth will not fall on them," he explains. Santiago, the former head of the Brigade. "And then, well, I'm not sure about this, but I imagine that when they're less than a meter away from where the kid is supposed to be, they'll open a tiny hole and put in a little camera, to see if it's there."

A task of extreme delicacy for accustomed men, remembers Celso González, to face barbarities like "three months of fire underground, as we live in the Pozu Pumarabule ", also known as Pozu La Muerte . What will be the hardest thing that the kids have to face in Malaga ? Celso does not doubt: "When they find the kid, that's going to be the hardest part of the game, I do not know how he's going to be, but that's going to be the most complicated thing."

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REF: https://www.elmundo.es/andalucia/2019/01/24/5c48e4d6fc6c830a4a8b4657.html