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CEO of Pike River Coal Peter Whitall , during a press conference, in Greymouth, New Zealand today. ROSS SETFORD/AP/Press Association Images
New Zealand

Rescue of New Zealand miners delayed over second explosion fear

Authorities in New Zealand have been forced to put rescue efforts on hold as they test the air-quality underground.

TENSIONS ARE RUNNING high in New Zealand, where no contact has yet been made with 29 coalminers trapped underground following an explosion on Friday.

It is not yet known what caused the explosion, which occurred on New Zealand’s west coast between Greymouth and Reefton, around 4 pm on Friday local time. Two men walked out of the mine, dazed and with minor injuries, however the rest of their colleagues have been trapped as far as 2.2 kilometers back into the rock. It is not known if they survived the explosion.

The plight of worried families on the surface has been compound by the rescue mission being delayed over fears of a second explosion.

Peter Whittall, chief executive of Pike River Coal told The Guardian:

We can’t risk sending men into the mine until we know exactly what [the quality of the gas] is.

Similarly, local union representative Trevor Bolderson said:

Gas samples taken at the mine are turning the wrong way and we are expecting that the second explosion may be forthcoming. At the moment the rescue guys can’t get into the mine because of this.

International support is pouring into the country. Neighbouring Australia has said that it is ready to assist New Zealand, as has Chile. In October, 33 Chilean miners were successfully rescued after spending 69 days beneath the surface.

The UK has also offered assistance, saying that it will do its “utmost” to help. Two Britons are believed to be among the group of trapped miners.