Chaos mars celebrations

Whistles and screams of delight greeted the return to the surface of the missile-shaped Phoenix rescue capsule as a captive world audience applauded the arrival of Avalos and paid tribute to an unparalleled feat of survival.

After more than 68 days trapped deep underground in a damp, hot mine shaft plagued by doubt and fear, the reactions of the first miners as they were pulled from their subterranean hell were awe-inspiring.

Wearing dark glasses to shield his vulnerable eyes from the light, Avalos kissed his wife and comforted his son who was overwhelmed by the tension as the creaking winch hoisted his father up more than 600 meters.

Bear hug

After receiving a bear hug from Chilean President Sebastian Pinera, Avalos embraced relatives of the other miners, some unable to hold back tears, amid a throng of hundreds of journalists and wellwishers.

The celebrations only got louder when the second miner, Mario Sepulveda, emerged and put on an exuberant show that completely defied the gravity of his nightmarish ordeal. Sadly, the elation of some of 31-year-old Avalos’s family members turned to horror when a media scrum trampled their humble tent in a mad rush to secure that all-important interview.

Avalos’s father Alfonso, tears running down his face, had just exclaimed: “It’s a huge joy. I’m so happy” and hugged his wife Maria Silva when things turned ugly. Reporters pushed and shoved to be the first to interview them, pulling on the hair of those in the way, throwing punches and almost knocking others to the ground.

The chaos and jostling marred the celebrations as the news workers rushed forward as one to capture the historic moment and surrounded the tent on all sides in walls of cameras and journalists.The mayhem stood out in an otherwise festive occasion.

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