Efforts on to rescue trapped New Zealand miners

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

WELLINGTON - Hope still prevails as a second robot was brought in by the army Tuesday in a bid to rescue the 29 miners trapped inside a New Zealand coal mine since the past five days.

A second robot has arrived at Pike River Coal Mine as the first one broke down after drilling 550 metres into the mine. The new equipment is another Defence Force robot and arrived in a Westpac helicopter, TVNZ reported.

Superintendent of police Gary Knowles told a media conference that the Defence Force deployed the robot into the mine at 6 a.m. Tuesday.

Special robots from the US and Australia have also been offered and Knowles said the Royal New Zealand Air Force would bring them in if required.

The miners have been trapped underground since an explosion at the mine Friday. The men have not been heard from since then.

Knowles said the drilling operation to complete the 162m bore-hole was advancing in a positive manner.

“This is extreme dense bush and these guys are working 24 hours a day and giving it their best shot so our sympathies are with them.

“We are carrying out a risk assessment to establish the viability that once we do punch through the hole, we will put some kind of listening device or camera down to enable us to hear what’s happening underground.”

Drillers said Tuesday that they estimate another five hours of work before they complete the bore-hole into the mine.

Pike River CEO Peter Whittall said they were also looking at drilling another hole.

Knowles said experts had informed him it was not yet safe to enter the mine and said they were now preparing for all possible outcomes.

“Experts still tell us the levels of toxicity are still too unstable to send rescue teams in. They do fluctuate depending on their biometric conditions … but at the end of the day safety is paramount to sending teams in.

“This is a very serious situation, and the longer it goes on, hope fades and we have to be realistic.”

New Zealand Mines Rescue general manager Trevor Watts said a large team was ready to go into the mine when it was deemed safe.

A total of 65 underground mines rescue personnel are ready and are continually being de-briefed as they rotate through the day and night.

DPA adds:

Names of the missing men were released by police for the first time Monday.

They include Joseph Dunbar, who was on his first shift down the mine, one day after celebrating his 17th birthday. He was not supposed to start work until Monday but was so enthusiastic about his first job that he convinced his boss to let him begin early.

The oldest is 62-year-old Keith Thomas Valli.

Filed under: Accidents and Disasters

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