Survival in the Andes


View of the Crash Memorial in February 2006.
By BoomerKC (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

In 1972, an airplane crashed high in the Andes mountains, in an area without any food. Anne Muir and Nick Page tell the story of the survivors.

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Transcript


Voice 1 

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Anne Muir.

Voice 2 

And I’m Nick Page. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

Voice 1 

In October 1972, an airplane was flying from Uruguay to Chile. It was carrying 45 people. They were members of a sports team, and their supporters, including family and friends. The airplane had to fly over the high Andes mountains. But there was a strong wind and heavy clouds. The pilots could not see where they were. They tried to land, but the airplane crashed into a mountain.

Voice 2 

Rescuers looked for the lost airplane, and any survivors. But the airplane was white, and it was lying in white snow. It was too difficult to see.  After ten days, the search was ended. The authorities thought that no one could survive the conditions on the mountains.

Voice 1 

However, 27 people had survived. Twelve people died in the crash. In the next few days more people died from their injuries. The survivors faced a dangerous and difficult situation. They had no hope of rescue. But they found a way to escape. Today’s Spotlight is on these survivors.

Voice 2 

At first, the survivors hoped to be rescued. They sheltered in the wreckage of the airplane.  The weather was extremely cold, many degrees below freezing. They had no clothes or shoes for cold weather. They only had a small amount of food and drink. They melted snow to drink. And they prayed to God that they would soon be rescued.

Voice 1 

The survivors had a small radio. So they heard the terrible news that the search had stopped. They gave up all hope of being rescued. And they began to cry. But one boy suprised the others. He said that this was good news! It meant that they would get out on their own. One survivor remembers what Roberto Canessa said,

Voice 3 

‘We will die looking at the faces of each other. Or we will die walking.’

Voice 2 

The survivors began to plan their escape. Some made brief trips but it was too difficult. It was too cold and they were too weak from lack of food.

Voice 1 

This lack of food was a big problem. The survivors searched the airplane for food many times. But there was nothing. And there was nothing to eat in the snow covered mountains around them. It was too high in the mountains for plants or animals. They had to eat to survive. So they decided there was only one way. They had to eat the bodies of the people who had died. It was a terrible thing to have to do. They discussed the problem for many days. Finally they agreed to do it. This food helped them to get stronger.

Voice 2 

Then there was another disaster. An avalanche of snow came down the mountain. It covered the wreckage of the airplane. And it killed eight more people. Now there were just 19 people left alive. They struggled against hopelessness and despair. But they did not stop. They began to plan their escape again.

Voice 1 

They chose a small team to try to reach safety and get help. This group received the most food and the warmest clothes to help them get strong. They waited seven weeks for the weather to improve.

Voice 2 

It was 12 December 1972. Roberto Canessa, Fernando Parrado and Antonio Vizintin began the long walk. On the third day they reached the top of the mountain. But in front of them they could only see more mountains. They knew then that it would be a very long walk. There was not enough food for all of them to cross the mountains. So Vizintin returned to the wreck.

Voice 1 

Canessa and Parrado continued their walk through the snow. They experienced many dangers. But after six more days they arrived at the edge of a river. On the other side of the river they saw three men riding horses. Canessa and Parrado shouted to the horsemen to get help. One of the horsemen shouted, ‘Tomorrow!’ Canessa and Parrado knew at last that they would be rescued.

Voice 2 

The next morning, one of the horsemen went back to the river. Parrado and Canessa were still there. The horseman tied some paper to a rock and threw it across the river. Parrado wrote a note explaining about the airplane crash.

Voice 1 

Parrado threw the rock back. The horseman showed he understood the message. He threw some bread to the two starving men. Then, he brought their message to the authorities. That day, Parrado and Canessa were rescued.

Voice 2 

The next day Parrado guided rescue helicopters to the crashed airplane. The 14 survivors were filled with joy to see the rescue helicopters. But the weather was bad. The helicopters could not take all the survivors at once. So, eight survivors remained on the mountain with a rescue team. The next day these last survivors flew to safety.

Voice 1 

The Uruguayan airplane crashed on October 13. The last group of passengers was rescued on December 23. They had survived for 72 days.

Voice 2 

Were these people especially strong and brave? It is true many of them were young and strong and healthy. Many were members of a rugby sports team. The other people on the airplane were their friends and relations. When one person gave up hope another person encouraged them. Later, Fernando Parrado explained that they all knew each other and supported each other.

Voice 4 

‘We were a very close group ... We took turns to put up with each other’s state of mind. And rugby is a sport that teaches you to sacrifice yourself for others in the group.’

Voice 1 

Many of the survivors were Christians. They prayed to God and asked for his help. Carlos Paez explained how God helped:

Voice 5 

‘When we had no hope, God was our only hope. There was nothing else’.

Voice 2 

The airplane crashed 40 years ago. Since then, there have been books and films about the crash. People still wonder how anyone survived such a terrible experience. And the survivors continue to share their story of faith, and courage. Many years later, Jose Luis Inciarte said,

Voice 6 

'Having survived a crash into a mountain was a real miracle. I see it as an experience of love, togetherness, and commitment. There, the friends that could not come back gave the most a human being can give. I am in debt to them.'

Voice 1 

The writer of this program was Joy Smith. The producer was Nick Mangeolles. The voices you heard were from the United Kingdom and the United States. All quotes were from interviews on the accident’s official website. They were voiced by Spotlight. You can find our programs on the internet at www.radioenglish.net. This program is called ‘Survival in the Andes’.

Voice 2 

We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye.

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Question:

What do you think you would do in an emergency? Have you ever experienced an emergency?

Comments


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Tran Khanh Chi
said on September 03, 2012

What is a true and touching story! Thanks a lot!

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Tran Khanh Chi
said on September 03, 2012

What a true and touching story! Thanks a lot!

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Alfons
said on September 03, 2012

Very interesting article, more like this, thank you.

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Rain Bows
said on September 03, 2012

I’m very impressed by this story.
They are all heroes of their own life!
And for sure God is the biggest hope for the world.
Thanks for the program.
Sofía Miketta,
Manta-Ecuador.

Julix's avatar
Julix
said on September 04, 2012

So spectacular, it shows that we can trust God all time, however human spirit is awake when we suffer a lot , may be there is a Chip that is activated in difficult times ;)
In addition, I am living in Australia and I can see how important is to be part of a team in Rugby, I prefer soccer ;)

Facts
—————————————————————————————————————————————————————-
October 1972
45 people.
Uruguay to chile
16 survived
rescued on December 23. They had survived for 72 days

Thanks for this amazing program
Blessings
Julian

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funtimes
said on September 05, 2012

where and when there is a hopeness there is life
Thanks

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Dela
said on September 06, 2012

Thanks for a great story of endless faith, courage and will to survive. These people were able to support each other and that helped them to being rescue.Have a nice day

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georgino
said on September 07, 2012

I knew that story in my job, because I work with the planes and druing the training we have different topics in the troubleshooting of the system.
But now we can fly more sure. The tecnology of the planes is advanced.
Of course is awesome how the people didn’t lose the faith in god, so the faith crosses mountains for higher than it is.
thank you spotlight

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Orante
said on December 08, 2014

It was very fine and usefull listening this story.Very good. Thank you again. You are wonderful.

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djalma
said on December 10, 2014

An amazing story of tenacity and faith. It show us how God could do to find out if our strengths is based on our Father.

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Mss Flamboyant
said on December 10, 2014

They are so united and bravery.

muadibchik86's avatar
muadibchik86
said on December 11, 2014

The theme of cannibalism is funny showed in the movie called “High Strung “

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flying2015
said on December 11, 2014

‘When we had no hope, God was our only hope. There was nothing else’. - I believe in God, this is a real miracle.

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kenhieuloilam
said on December 11, 2014

In the life difficulties are big. We do not know what will happen to us. We may have many things. We may lose many things. Difficulties may take all things we have. In this world everything is good and beautiful. We wish all beautiful good things. Our lives are precious. We try much to keep all beautiful good things. Difficulties crush us. Difficulties mash us. We live our faith lives. We are willing to be mashed in this world. We are waiting for a new world.

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Isabel
said on December 11, 2014

This story is real, I watched the film it´s very amazing. The name´s film is Alive I share it if someone wants to watch it.
Bye

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nguyenbahuynh
said on November 03, 2015

to survive in this condition is so hard. thank god they can live most as they can!

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Honneur
said on June 27, 2019

I accompanied this story when it happened. It’s a very sad story of faithful and suffering that devastated who known it, but the humankind has had shown their resilience and powerful in a lot of disgraces and fatalities.

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Smquarn
said on June 27, 2019

Thank you for teaching me.

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Lan Can
said on June 28, 2019

In the war between VN and the US, Vietnamese soldiers had to eat their belts and drunk their piss when they got lost in the forest. My mom told me this story and some prisons had to eat cockroaches and geckos.
When we don’t have a way to return, we will have an amazing strength to get over difficulities.