Mourning New Zealand miners 311 AP.
(photo credit: AP)
New Zealand — Police said all 29 workers missing in a New Zealand coal mine are dead after a second explosion Wednesday that no one could have survived.
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Explosive and poisonous gases had prevented rescuers from entering the mine to search for the missing men since an initial explosion on Friday at the Pike River Mine. But even if any had survived, the second blast would have killed them, police superintendent Gary Knowles said.
"Unfortunately I have to inform the public of New Zealand at 2:37 p.m. today [Wednesday] there was another massive explosion underground and based on that explosion no one would have survived," said Knowles, in charge of the rescue operation. "The blast was prolific, just as severe as the first blast."
The second blast came after the first progress in days for the rescue
attempt, when a drilling team broke a narrow shaft through to the
section of the mine where the 29 workers were believed to have been
working. And two robots had crawled their way into the tunnel, giving
authorities their first view of the inside of the mine.
It was not immediately known what triggered the second blast, which came
almost exactly five days after the initial explosion. Pike River chief
executive said the rescue teams were not doing anything that could have
"It was a natural eventuation, it could have happened on the second day,
it could have happened on the third day," he told reporters.
In recent days, officials became increasingly pessimistic about the
chances of pulling the men alive from a network of tunnels some 1 1/2
miles (2 kilometers) deep in the side of a mountain, following the first
powerful explosion on Friday. Nothing had been heard from the missing
miners since that blast.
Earlier Wednesday, drillers using a diamond-tipped drill bit to prevent
sparks finished boring a 530-ft. (162-meter) hole to the mine's main
tunnel. It was a key step, giving officials their first information from
that section of the mine and allowing testing for levels of dangerous
Hot air and gas rushed the hole when the chamber roof was punctured, and
Whittall said earlier Wednesday that initial tests showed it was
"extremely high in carbon monoxide, very high in methane and fairly low
in oxygen." Carbon monoxide — the polluting gas from car exhausts — is
extremely poisonous, while explosive methane is the gas believed to have
ignited in Friday's blast.
And, an army robot usually used for bomb disposal had crawled two-thirds
of a mile (1 kilometer) into the tunnel on Wednesday and found a
miner's helmet with its fixed light still glowing. Officials said the
helmet belonged to one of two miners who managed to escape the initial