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article image27 New Zealand miners missing after explosion

By Kev Hedges     Nov 19, 2010 in World
Greymouth - Twenty-seven miners are missing following a severe gas explosion at a remote mine on New Zealand's South Island. The mayor of the nearest town, Greymouth, said the situation is "pretty serious but rescuers are on hand".
Earlier two miners emerged with slight injuries and families of the twenty-seven are now gathered outside the mine. The Pike River Pit explosion happened at 1530 local time (2130 Eastern Time). New Zealand's energy minister, Gerry Brownlee, has denied rumours of a fatality, and he had no information on what caused the blast or the condition of the miners.
Police said an electrician had gone into the mine 20 minutes after the explosion to fix a power outage, and discovered the driver of a loader, who had been blown off his machine into the shaft. He then raised the alarm. Express news reports that five workers had walked out of the mine including the loader driver and a pair from the coal staff underground, and, later, three more. He also said he was not aware of any deaths caused by the blast.
It is not clear if the miners were all together or in separate groups. The rescue crews have now assembled at the opening of the mine but are hesitant to go in until they can confirm it is safe to do so. The mine's owners Pike River Coal Ltd insist the horizontal mine tunnel would make the rescue effort easier than if the shaft was at a steep angle. Chief executive Peter Whittall said:
We're not a deep-shafted mine so men and rescue teams can get in and out quite effectively, and they'll be able to explore the mine quite quickly. They will work throughout the night and they'll work until they can go right throughout the mine and determine the extent of the incident and the safety of our employees
Pike River Mine holds the largest-known deposit of hard coking coal in New Zealand, with 58.5 million tonnes of coal underground, according to xinhuanet.com.
More about Miners, Explosion, Missing, South island, Trapped
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