Miracle of the Andes: The Incredible Story of Survival, Faith, and Hope

2023-12-15 15:20:00

(CNN Spanish) – It was called the “Christmas miracle”, a display of faith, hope, intelligence, teamwork and survival instinct that moved the entire world. It is known as the “miracle of the Andes”.

The tragic and extraordinary story began on October 12, 1972. A total of 45 people, including 19 members of the Christian Bross school rugby team in Uruguay, took off aboard flight 571 of the Uruguayan Air Force bound for Santiago de Chile to compete in the Friendship Cup.

That was just the beginning of what was to come.

Bad weather conditions forced the pilots to land at the Mendoza airport, in Argentina. The next day, October 13, they decided to take off. On the way, the aircraft suffered a brutal impact in the middle of the Andes mountain range, more than 3,500 meters above sea level.

“We were flying from Mendoza to Santiago, the peaks began to look a little close, they were getting closer and closer. Soon they began to feel imposing shaking, the peaks getting closer and the truth is that I began to be terrified,” said Eduardo Strauch, one of the 16 survivors of the tragedy in the CNN documentary “The Journey Without a Destination.”

“And suddenly, the noise, the sound of the engines at maximum and an impact, frozen air, the smell of kerosene,” he added.

He recalled that at that moment he thought it would be the end of his life and that of his companions. When she opened her eyes, he claimed, she realized what had happened.

Another of the survivors was Gustavo Zerbino. In an interview with CNN he said that after the crash and fall, he opened his eyes and felt the air conditioning fluid run down his face. “When I take a step back I bury myself in the snow, it was about halfway up my waist,” he said.

Strauch described the first night in the Andes as “eternal” and “a horror,” but said they were hopeful that the next day they would come to rescue them. “We never imagined that we would stay 72 nights,” he pointed.

The first night, the survivors had to improvise the fuselage of the plane to cover the rear part that was detached from the plane after the crash, in addition to sleeping next to their dead companions, listening to the cries of the injured and enduring freezing temperatures.

The Snow Society and cannibalism

The adverse conditions led them to find a new way to survive: the so-called “Snow Society” with unthinkable rules.

“We came from civilization and from one day to the next we found ourselves in nothingness and we began to transform into another society, with other codes and we were leading the snow society with the collaboration of everyone in the position that had been assigned to each one”, Strauch detailed.

They made a blanket from the plane’s seat covers, wove it with copper wire from the plane, and created glasses from the aircraft’s sunshades to prevent the snow from damaging their retinas. To have water they created a kind of funnel and used the sheets of the seats so that it would melt in the sun and fall into a bottle.

According to Strauch, the only food they carried was wine, chocolates and cookies, which they soon ran out of. In addition, they ate toothpaste and deodorant, but they quickly became weaker. That need and the desire to survive led them to decide to eat the flesh of their dead companions.

“In the end, when the idea arose that we were going to offer each other as food (…) and what could be nicer than being food for a friend and not being left stranded on the mountain, being eaten by condors and that stage began “to live in that way that had been unthinkable two days before,” he narrated.

Although at first it was difficult for the survivors, as time went by they got used to eating human flesh.

The expedition and the rescue

On October 23, 1972, survivors heard on the radio that the search to rescue them had been called off. With that news, they decided to start expeditions to leave the mountain range on their own.

Roberto Canessa and Nardo Parrado they climbed for 10 days in the Andes mountain range to give notice, two months after the accident, that they were alive and to point out the place where their other 14 companions remained trapped, in the fuselage of the plane that crashed into the mountains, where another 29 people They died.

The survivors waiting on the plane listened to the radio every day hoping for some good news, until days later they heard that their two companions had been found.

Days before Christmas 1972, on December 22, the rescue occurred that surprised the entire world, hence it was called the “Christmas miracle.” For 16 survivors, the 72-day nightmare was over.

With information from Dario Klein.

#history #survivors #victims

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