Trapped miners believed dead

2010-11-24 07:00

Greymouth, New Zealand – There is no hope of finding survivors after an “extremely severe” second blast tore through a New Zealand mine which was hit by an explosion last week, trapping 29 miners, police said.

“There was another explosion at the mine. It was extremely severe,” Police Superintendent Gary Knowles said.

“Based on expert evidence I have been given it is our belief that no one has survived. We are now going into recovery mode,” he added.

“I was at the mine myself when this actually occurred and the blast was horrific, just as severe as the first blast and we’re now moving into recovery phase,” he said.

Distraught relatives left a briefing in tears after being told about the latest explosion. Families wept, shouted and fell to the floor after hearing the news, according to Grey District mayor Tony Kokshoorn.

“It’s unbelievable. This is the West Coast’s darkest hour. It doesn’t get worse than this,” Kokshoorn said.

“The cause was the build-up over the last five days of the gases again and they noticed this this morning. A lethal mixture ignited the entire mine.

“They’re moving into the mine now to recover bodies.”

The tragic conclusion follows an agonising five days for families of the 29, who included a 17-year-old on his first shift. Two Australians and two Britons were among the missing.

Earlier a bore hole drilled into the mine shaft, near where the miners were believed to have been working, found high levels of toxic gases and little oxygen, further diminishing hopes of finding anyone alive.

Families had been expressing anger at the rescue efforts, with no teams sent into the mine due to the high levels of methane and carbon dioxide.

“We don’t want bullshit, we want answers, we’re sick of these meetings,” said Lawrie Drew, whose son Zen (21) is one of those trapped, before the second blast.

Two remote-controlled robots had been sent part-way down the mine in the hope of gaining a clearer picture of conditions underground.

Rescuers took delivery of a third from Australia today and a fourth is being flown in from the US.

The first robot, restarted after breaking down on yesterday, had reached a kilometre into the tunnel and found the helmet of Russell Smith, one of two miners to make their way out after the explosion.

Yesterday, authorities released chilling video footage which showed a powerful and sustained initial explosion at the mine on Friday.

The security video released by the Pike River Coal company showed stone dust being blasted for 52 seconds out of the shaft’s entrance – some 2.5km from the explosion and where the missing men were located.

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