Underground fire delays rescue bid at New Zealand mine

Police said they had "no idea" when it would be safe for rescuers to try to reach the menFading Hope: Family members of the 29 coal miners, who are trapped underground after an explosion near Greymouth in New Zealand, leave after a briefing from the management of Pike River Coal in Greymouth on Sunday. AFP at the Pike River colliery, who have not been heard from since the blast on Friday.
"This is not a quick fix, we're into day two, we have no idea how long this will take but we are still focused on bringing these guys out," police commander Gary Knowles told reporters.

"This is a search and rescue operation, with the emphasis on rescue," he added, although officials also said they were being realistic with the information they passed on to the families of the missing men.

Arrangements were being made to fly relatives of the five foreign nationals among the 29 to New Zealand as locals packed churches to pray for a successful rescue."Samples we took do indicate that we've got a heating of some sort underground, that means that there's some combustion of material generating the gases that go with that," Pike River chief executive Peter Whittall said.

Knowles denied suggestions made at a news conference that rescue teams were showing a lack of urgency about entering the mine because he appeared to believe the chances were low of finding the miners alive.

"No, I find that really repugnant," he said, amid heated exchanges with reporters.
"We're talking about people's lives here and I find it upsetting to think you'd say that. My decision is made based on safety and what experts are saying."

New Zealand Mine Rescue chief Trevor Watts described the mine as a "gun barrel" and said the areas of greatest concern "are in an explosive atmosphere".

Tearful family members, who had been kept away from the disaster site since Friday's explosion, were taken to the scene for a two-hour visit today to view the rescue preparations.

Whittall said the trip helped the families, some of whom have publicly questioned the delay, gain an understanding of the problems facing the rescuers.However, he conceded that the longer the miners remained underground without any form of contact, the more families would worry.

"Obviously, with nearly 48 hours gone by now, they're starting to be very concerned and want as much information as they can, and today has been very much about that.

31 trapped in China mines

At least 31 people, including 28 miners, were trapped in flooded coal and iron mines in China on Sunday, PTI reports from Beijing, quoting the state media. The miners were trapped in a flooded colliery in southwest China’s Sichuan province.

Altogether 41 miners were working underground when a pit of Batian Coal Mine in Weiyuan county was flooded.

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