NZ mine blast bodies to stay unrecovered

2012-05-30 13:05

Wellington - The grieving families of 29 men killed in a New Zealand mine explosion 18 months ago said on Wednesday they were abandoning a campaign to recover their loved ones' bodies.

The families had demanded the retrieval of bodies entombed in the Pike River Coal mine since November 2010, when a series of methane explosions ripped through the remote South Island colliery.

But the families' spokesperson Bernie Monk, whose 23-year-old son Michael died in the disaster, said on Wednesday they had reluctantly concluded that reaching the bodies was not feasible and trying to do so was too risky.

"We don't want anyone to lose their life trying to get our men out and we don't want other families to go through the hardship and the pain that we've been through over the last 18 months," he told the TV3 station.

"So we've come to that assessment that life is far better than trying to push people into a dangerous situation."


Earlier this month, the families of the miners - 24 New Zealanders, two Australians, two Britons and a South African - vowed to block any future attempts to extract coal from the site unless the bodies were removed.

Monk said they decided to drop the campaign after a meeting on Tuesday night with coal company Solid Energy, which is buying the Pike River mine.

He said experts commissioned by Solid Energy had outlined the hazards of entering the underground area where the men died and made it clear the bodies could not be retrieved safely.

Mining stopped at Pike River after the explosion and the Pike River Coal company went into receivership soon afterwards.

An inquiry into the accident is expected to be completed later this year.


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