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29 miners in NZ pit blast had no chance

All 29 miners in a New Zealand coal mine died within minutes of an initial explosion that rocked the mine, an inquest heard today.

The fates of the men had been uncertain for days after the November 19 methane-fuelled blast, because a build-up of poisonous gases prevented rescuers from entering the mine outside the town of Greymouth.

The miners were declared dead only five days later, after a second blast that officials said would have killed anyone underground.

Chief Coroner Neil MacLean said evidence showed the men died from a combination of concussion, burns or hypoxia caused by toxic gases and a lack of oxygen after the initial blast.

He said the men's deaths occurred either at "the immediate time of the large explosion that occurred in the mine or a very short time thereafter".