New Zealand disaster: miners will 'never walk amongst us again'
Published 24/11/2010 | 12:11
The prime minister of New Zealand has said that the whole country is in mourning for the 29 men who are believed to be dead following a second devastating explosion at the Pike River mine.
The miners have been missing in a labyrinth of roadways at the end of the 1.4 mile main tunnel of the Pike River Coal mine since last Friday night when methane gas caused a massive explosion inside the mine on a mountain on New Zealand's south island.
Earlier today robots and cameras had been sent into the mine to search for signs of the missing men, but at 2.37pm rescue attempts were halted when a second large explosion suddenly ripped through the mine.
Mine bosses have said that the blast, which occurred deep within the mountain, would not have been survivable.
"Today all New Zealanders grieve for these men. We are a nation in mourning," said John Key said in an address to the nation in which he announced an inquiry would be held into the disaster.
"New Zealand is a small country... where we are our brothers keepers. To lose so many brothers at once strikes an agonising blow."
Deadly toxic gas and fears of further explosions stopped rescuers entering the mine, despite desperate pleas by the miners' relatives that rescue teams enter the mine to find their husbands and sons.
After news the second explosion was delivered, some families questioned whether more could have been done to bring the men out.
Lawrie Drew, the father of 21-year-old Zen Drew, said rescue teams should have entered the mine in the hours following the first blast, when the dangerous methane and carbon monoxide gases would have been sucked out of the mine.
"There was a window of opportunity on Friday, why didn't they take it?" he said.
Tony Kokshoorn, the mayor of Grey District, said there were a lot of angry and grieving families in the town.
"This is the west coast's darkest hour," he said.
The second, more powerful explosion, was believed to have been caused by a build up of poisonous gases within the mine, although it is not known what triggered the blast, which took place as rescue teams were poised to enter the mine.
Among the men believed to have perished in the mine are Britons Peter Rodger, 40, and Malcolm Campbell, 29, who was due to marry his fiancee Amanda Shields next month.