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History shows Thai kids will struggle if aftermath of Chilean mine rescue repeats itself

Since 2010 rescue, Chilean miners have battled poverty, depression, addiction

With the story of the 12 Thailand boys and their soccer coach coming to the most heartwarming of conclusions after all were freed from a cave in a dangerous, but successful, rescue mission that gripped the entire world, plenty of questions have arisen about the boys’ future.

Will they have any mental issues or flashbacks tied to the ordeal? Will the boys profit handsomely from the movies that are assuredly about to come out? Will the world quickly forget about them?

Judging by what has transpired since another daring rescue that captivated the world, the freeing of 33 Chilean miners after a collapse trapped them underground for 69 days in 2010, the answers to the above questions will likely not be what the boys’ families would hope.

Since they were freed from their own situation by being brought up to the surface one by one in a steel capsule, the lives of the miners have reportedly been anything but the fairytale story their rescue was.

According to an article written by the United Kingdom’s Express in 2016, just more than five years after the miners were rescued, their lives are “degrees of bad.”

“People saw the pictures of the rescue and they thought our hell was over,” said the leader of the group, Mario Sepulveda. “In fact, it was just beginning.”

The miners reportedly are just as poor as they were before the accident, with some suffering from alcoholism, drug addiction, depression, nightmares and regular flashbacks.

Some have even gone back to working in mines.

There was a movie made about the incident, starring Antonio Banderas called “The 33,” but the miners have profited little off of the production.

When the movie premiered in Los Angeles, only four of the miners attended.

Sepulveda told the Express that he feels the group, which received all-expenses-paid trips to Disneyland, a Manchester United soccer game and the Holy Land shortly after being freed, has been exploited and abandoned by politicians he felt used the operation to bolster their popularity and lawyers who cheated them out of the rights to their story.

“Everyone got something out of it, except us,” Sepulveda said. “When they took us to Disneyland or Manchester United, it wasn’t a happy time. We were on show. People got good publicity, but it didn’t put food on my table.”

The miners ranged in age from 19 to 63, and finding jobs has reportedly been difficult because employers are worried about them being mentally unstable.

Some of the miners were watching, just like the rest of the world, when the Thai kids were trapped in the cave, and offered words of encouragement to them.

They obviously hope that years down the road, the post-rescue lives of the boys will be better.

 “We were simple working men who went down a mine and came up into a circus,” Sepulveda said. “And then the world forgot about us.”

All photos copyright Getty Images