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Another blast rocks NZ mine,29 dead

The blast erased hopes of rescuing 29 miners caught underground by a similar blast five days ago.

Written by Associated Press | Greymouth |
November 25, 2010 2:47:50 am

A massive explosion deep inside a New Zealand coal mine Wednesday erased hopes of rescuing 29 miners caught underground by a similar blast five days ago. The Prime Minister declared it a national tragedy.

Even if any of the missing men had survived the initial explosion Friday at the Pike River Mine,the police said none could have lived the second. Both blasts were believed caused by explosive,toxic gases swirling in the tunnels dug up to 2 km into a mountain that had also prevented rescuers from entering the mine to search for the missing.

“There was another massive explosion underground,and based on that explosion no one would have survived,” said police superintendent Gary Knowles,in charge of the rescue operation. “The blast was prolific,just as severe as the first blast.”

It was one of New Zealand’s worst mining disasters. The country’s industry is relatively small compared to other nations and considered generally safe,with 210 deaths in 114 years after the most recent tragedy.

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It also devastated families who — buoyed by the survival tale of Chile’s 33 buried miners — had clung to hope for more than five days that their relatives could emerge alive. “New Zealand has been devastated by the news that we have all been dreading,” New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said in a nationally televised news conference. “This is a national tragedy.”

Pike River Coal chief executive Peter Whittall said rescue teams were not doing anything that could have set the blast off,and conditions inside the mine were such it could have happened at any time. “It was a natural eventuation,it could have happened on the second day,it could have happened on the third day,” he told reporters.

Family members who gathered for a daily briefing were told of the second blast and that no one could survive. Whittal said he began by telling them a team had been getting ready to go underground. Some people — thinking a rescue was about to start — broke into applause before he could finish. “I had to wait till they stopped clapping to tell them … that the second explosion occurred,” he said.

Laurie Drew,father of 21-year-old miner Zen,said rescuers should have gone into the mine Friday,saying he believed that explosion would have burned off dangerous gases.

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