Toxic gas level still too high
LEVELS of dangerous gases at the Pike River mine are still high and rescuers are unable to enter to recover the bodies of 29 trapped men, police said this afternoon.
Tasman district police commander Gary Knowles told media gathered in Greymouth today that the environment inside the mine needed to be made safe.
"We are still taking air samples. My understanding is half an hour ago the samples had not dropped and there was an extreme risk of sending people underground," he said.
He said yesterday's second, more intense, explosion showed the risk involved in sending teams in.
"It's an example of where everything was coming together and within minutes the whole environment changed," he said.
"It's a highly volatile environment. [The second blast] was an example where we where lining things up, we believe the environment was stabilising and in less than an hour it changed."
Mr Knowles said there were a number of options for stabilising the mine.
"We are looking at those options. How do you stabilise an environment that is full of gas, how do you neutralise the gas so you can send people in."
Mr Knowles said there was equipment in Queensland that could be used to neutralise the mine environment and the Air Force was on stand-by to fly to New Zealand if experts decided that was the best option.
Mr Knowles stood by rescuers' decision not to enter the mine after the first blast on Friday.
"At the end of the day the right advice was given, and I still maintain that."
Bring miners home, say families
THE distraught families of the 29 miners - including two Australians - whose bodies remain in New Zealand's Pike River coal mine had a simple message for company bosses "bring our boys home".
The message came through loud and clear in the hours after a second huge explosion in the mine extinguished all hope that men trapped underground for five nights were alive.
After delivering the families the news, Pike River chief executive Peter Whittall said planning was underway to bring out the miners.
Company chairman John Dow said it would do whatever needed to be done to make the mine safe and bring home the bodies of the 16 coal miners and 13 contractors.
Nothing had been heard from the men since Friday afternoon, when a huge methane gas blast ripped through the mine near Greymouth on the West Coast.
Mr Dow said yesterday was an "absolutely awful day" with the realisation the 29 men were all dead.
"The expressions on the faces of our families when we had to tell them the awful news yesterday afternoon ... I have never, ever in my life seen such an amazing outpouring of raw human emotion," he told Newstalk ZB.
Before the second explosion, families were telling the company to bring their men home alive.
"Earlier in the week as I hugged various members of the family they just hugged me and said 'bring our boys home' and they really meant bring our boys home alive," he said.
"(Wednesday) after we had told them the dreadful news they hugged us again and they said 'bring our boys home John' but this time they know they won't be coming home alive."
Mr Dow said the goal was now to make the mine safe to bring the bodies out.
An army of people were available to help the families, with every family having a support person to help with their needs.
It was not the end of Pike River coal, he said.
"There is a future. We're not quite sure what that future looks like. But it is too early to talk about the details yet. We are absolutely focussed on families and we will be talking about the business issues in coming days," he told TVNZ.
NZ Prime Minster to meet 'distraught' families
NEW Zealand Prime Minister John Key is today travelling to Greymouth where he hopes to meet the families of the 29 men - including two Australians - killed in the Pike River coal mine.
Mr Key is due to arrive in Greymouth about 11am.
"I want to go and talk to the families and give them as much support as I possibly can," Mr Key told Radio New Zealand this morning.
Mr Key said he also wanted to thank all of the people involved in the rescue operation who had "worked tirelessly from the moment that the first explosion took place".
Prime Minister John Key told Morning Report the Commission of Inquiry as well as inquiries by the police, Chief Coroner and Ministry of Labour would establish what went wrong.
"We need to learn, what went wrong, why and what can be done in future to ensure we don't have a repeat of Pike River," he said.
Mr Key said long after media attention had shifted elsewhere those affected by the disaster would be left mourning.
"They will be left with this gaping void which is that their loved ones are no longer with them."
Last night Mr Key said he hoped to pass on the thoughts of the many thousands of New Zealanders who had contacted his office with messages of sympathy.
"Obviously this will be a difficult and raw time for the families but I'd like to, if I can, express the enormous loss they must be feeling."
He said he had met family members of the miners on his two previous trips to Greymouth.
"Looking in their eyes, you can see their pain, that they just wanted their loved ones back."
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