Inquest says explosion killed NZ miners

January 27, 2011 06:40

WELLINGTON, New Zealand  — An inquest has found that 29 miners died within minutes of the first of a series of explosions that rocked a southern New Zealand mine in November.

Chief Coroner Neil MacLean said Thursday that evidence showed the men died from a combination of concussion, burns or hypoxia caused by toxic gases and a lack of oxygen after the Nov. 19 methane-fueled explosion at the Pike River mine outside Greymouth.

The men's fates were uncertain for days as a build-up of poisonous gases prevented rescuers from entering the mine. They were declared dead five days later after a second massive blast that officials said would have killed anyone underground.

Wider issues concerning the cause and possible prevention of the disaster will be covered later by a Royal Commission of Inquiry.

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