The crash in the Andes and the cannibalism story that stunned the world 50 years ago

The crash in the Andes and the cannibalism story that stunned the world 50 years ago


On October 13, 1972, a plane carrying 45 people carrying an amateur Uruguayan rugby team, along with relatives and supporters, to an away game in Chile crashed in the Andes.

16 young men survived 72 days in sub-zero temperatures and with very little food before two of them found help in waist-deep snow after a 10-day trek through the mountains.

The so-called “Miracle of the Andes” gained worldwide notoriety when the survivors, who were devout Catholics, admitted to having eaten parts of the bodies of their dead companions to stay alive.

AFP reporters in Chile and Uruguay covered the dramatic events recounted in Alive, a best-selling book that was later made into a film.

– the crash –

On the evening of October 13, 1973, a chartered military plane transporting the Old Christians rugby team from the Argentine city of Mendoza to the Chilean capital of Santiago disappeared from radar near the Chilean city of Curico.

Planes from Chile, Argentina and Uruguay search for the aircraft but do not see the white fuselage in the snow.

After eight days, the search is terminated.

– ‘Come save us’ –

Two months later, on December 22, 1972, the world is stunned by the news that there are survivors, two of whom, Nando Parrado and Roberto Canessa, have made it out of the mountains on foot to seek help.

“They spot a muleteer while following a river that meanders around the base of the mountains. Exhausted, they throw him a rock across the water with a message scrawled on a piece of paper and then begin to pray while waiting to be saved,” AFP reported.

The message reads: “I come from a plane that crashed in the mountains. I am Uruguayan We’ve been on the road for 10 days… There are 14 injured on the plane. We need to get out of here quickly and we don’t know how. We have nothing to eat. we are weak what time do you pick us up Please, we can’t even walk. Where are we?”

The mule driver ensures they are rescued and help comes quickly for their severely malnourished companions, who will be taken down the mountain by helicopter in two days.

– donkey grass –

The men recount how the plane got lost in the mountains and then clipped a ridge before plunging down a glacier and landing on a snow bank, killing 13 people, including the pilot and co-pilot, and injuring several others. who later died.

They describe the struggle to survive at an altitude of almost 4,000 meters, living in the hull and foraging in the snow for roots and a herb nicknamed “donkey grass” after their food supplies were depleted.

They also tell about the deaths of several survivors in an avalanche.

“We are witnessing a miracle the likes of which the world has never seen,” said Cesar Charlone, Uruguayan Charge d’Affaires in Chile.

– The last supper –

On December 24, rumors circulated that the men engaged in cannibalism to avoid starvation, which was confirmed two days later by the head of the Chilean rescue operation.

The Chilean newspaper La Segunda quotes an unnamed survivor as saying: “We have made the terrible decision: In order to survive, we must overcome all obstacles, whether religious or biological.”

On December 29, the survivors in Montevideo issued a joint statement, declaring after their food ran out: “We said to ourselves: if Jesus divided his body and blood among the apostles at the Last Supper, we should not understand should we do the same?”

The men, hailed as heroes, are acquitted by the Catholic Church in Uruguay and Pope John Paul II and return to their everyday lives.

Canessa became a cardiologist and in 2020 she helped save lives again by building ventilators for Covid-19 patients.

“When I saw people around the world dying from lack of air, it reminded me of the mountain, when I saw my friends who couldn’t breathe, and I said, ‘No, this can’t happen to me again,'” he said he told AFP.

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