Rescued Chile miner loses home in floods

SANTIAGO (AFP) - One of the Chilean miners who captured worldwide attention in 2010 after spending more than two months in a collapsed mine has lost everything after torrential rains struck northern Chile.

Victor Zamora is one of 33 men who were thrust into the international spotlight when they became trapped deep underground after a collapse at the San Jose copper mine in the Atacama desert.

Zamora's house was washed away early Tuesday along with most other structures in his small mining village, located near the town of Copiapo, about 800km north of Santiago.

"This is another tragedy, we have lost everything," Zamora told AFP, speaking from the town of Tierra Amarilla.

The rare floods in the normally parched region have left at least 10 dead, 19 missing and hundreds of people homeless.

The interior ministry has declared a state of emergency and invoked a constitutional clause transferring power from the regional government to the military.

Zamora said the waters came at around 3am when everyone was asleep. He was only able to get away with the few items he had with him.

"We've got nothing left. But me and my neighbours are trying to help each other," said Zamora, who in October 2010 was the 14th miner to be pulled safely to the surface after spending 69 days trapped deep underground.

Since the dramatic rescue, Zamora has never been able to find a permanent job and now lives on a small government pension.

Zamora and his colleagues were trapped on Aug 5, 2010 when a cave-in left them stranded and despairing deep down inside the remote copper mine.

During the next 17 days, the men waited in a shelter in the dark, dank tunnel, resigning themselves to what looked like a slow death.

On Aug 22, a probe drill hauled up to the surface had a note attached to it from the miners: "We're all well, all 33 in the shelter."

A Herculean operation was then started, with water, food and medicine dropped to the men.

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