PM calls on NZ to prepare for worst in mine blast

Last Updated: Tuesday, November 23, 2010 - 19:34

Greymouth: New Zealand`s Prime Minister John Key warned the nation to prepare for the
worst as there remained no viable way to reach 29 coal miners missing since Friday when they were trapped by a blast so powerful it broke surface vents and blew dust across nearby
valleys.

A bomb-disposal robot that was sent into the Pike
River mine to assess conditions and learn the fate of the men
short-circuited and failed today when water hit it
underground.

Replacements were being flown from the New Zealand
army and from West Australia, said police superintendent Gary
Knowles, the head of the rescue operation.

"Toxicity is still too unstable to send rescue teams
in," Knowles told reporters. "This is a very serious situation
and the longer it goes on, hopes fade, and we have to be
realistic."

The robot breakdown and the release of security camera footage showing the huge power of a blast last Friday sent relatives` hopes for the men`s survival plummeting.
"We hope and pray that the missing men are alive and
well," Key said in a somber address to Parliament. "But given
we have not had contact with the men for nearly four days, the
situation remains grave. Although we must stay optimistic,
police are now planning for the possible loss of life."

There had been little progress hours later, when the situation entered its fifth day.
Rescuers cannot enter the mine because toxic and
potentially explosive gases are swirling in the tunnels and
heat underground is believed to be coming from a smoldering
fire.

PTI



First Published: Tuesday, November 23, 2010 - 19:34

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