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Flags at half mast for lost miners

Published: 5:40AM Thursday November 25, 2010 Source: NZPA/ONE News/Newstalk ZB

Flags are flying at half mast around the country as the nation joins with the West Coast in mourning the 29 men who lost their lives in the Pike River Mine.

Prime Minister John Key, who will travel to Greymouth today, asked that flags on all public buildings be lowered.

For six days the families of the missing miners waited and hoped their loved ones would be saved, as rescuers waited for dangerous conditions inside the mine to subside.

At 2.37pm yesterday all hope was lost, as a massive secondary blast - bigger than the first - shook Pike River. The 29 miners and contractors had not been heard from since an initial explosion on Friday afternoon.

"This has been the news that all of New Zealand has been dreading," Key told a press conference last night, saying New Zealand was a nation in mourning.

Key will express condolences to the families and thank all those involved in the planned rescue when he gets to Greymouth at around 11am.

"I would like to talk to them, offer them whatever support that we can," he told TV ONE's Breakfast this morning.

"One thing that has shone through all of this bleakness has been the fact that New Zealand has rallied around and I think every New Zealander felt very deeply the news... that the second explosion had taken place and what that meant for the people inside the mine," he said.

It was "horrific" for the families but he hoped they would take comfort in the knowledge the country was "sharing their pain."

Key also said the rescue efforts at the Pike River Mine tragedy were 100% correct. He said he was confident everything was done the right way.

He met with the rescue team on Monday, describing them as highly competent and brave men who knew what they were doing.

Flags will also fly at half mast in New South Wales and Victoria in Australia.

New South Wales Premier Kristina Keneally has called on all government agencies to fly their flags at half mast as a mark of respect for the men they have lost.

She also asked that the Australian and New Zealand flags on Sydney's Anzac Bridge be flown at half mast and the same be observed on the harbour bridge.

Commission of Inquiry

Cabinet will discuss details around a Commission of Inquiry into the Pike River tragedy on Monday.

Key also expects inquiries from the police, the Department of Labour, and the Coroner.

Key also said one of the questions a Commission of Inquiry will look at is how a known hazard like methane gas was allowed to build up in the mine.

"At the end of the day we need answers to what happened at Pike River. Clearly something has gone terribly wrong and it's now claimed the lives of 29 people."

He said we owed it to the families and owed it to New Zealanders to find answers.

Pike River Chairman John Dow told Breakfast that the company would "absolutely" support the Commission of Inquiry.

"We want to know just as much as any other Kiwi does: What happened?."

Recovery

Hours after breaking the news to the families, Pike River chief executive Peter Whittall said they were looking at recovering the men still in the mine.

However, he told TV ONE's Breakfast today that it was still too early to start a recovery mission, and that they were looking at what their options were.

"Now it's all about making the mine safe and safe for re-entry so we can bring our boys out and bring them home to their families."

Whittall said it was their intention to get the men out as soon as possible.

However he said it was too early say how long it would take.

"There's a lot of work to do, there's a lot of planning to do."

Key said he had not yet received any formal advice on when the bodies could be recovered, saying it was an issue of stabilisation and safety.

"We know that there are a number of options that are being explored to allow the bodies to be removed from the mine. Of course the most important thing at this point now is to stabilise the environment so it's safe for the rescue teams to go in and take the bodies out."

He said it would be an important part of giving closure to the families.

"For family members, they will want to get their loved ones back soon obviously to be able to hold their own services in a way that dignifies the lives of those miners."

Key expects affected families will receive support, but details are still being worked out.

He says ACC will have a part to play in financial compensation, but anything beyond that will have to be looked at.

Share your messages of condolence to the friends and families of the men lost in the Pike River Mine on our messageboard below.

TO DONATE: People can make a donation to the fund at any ANZ branch or branch of The National Bank. The account number: 01 1841 0052483 00

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  • tit4tat said on 2010-12-03 @ 18:25 NZDT: Report abusive post

    condolences to the families, concern about the industry that allowed these men to work in unsafe conditions, mines are dangerous thats true but none can put their hands on their hearts and claim they have gone above and beyond what is lawfully required of them to ensure their "mates" safety. Glenn Grindly could lead the way by ensuring his mine workers and his local community are 110% protected people b4 profit yeah right!!!

  • tropicalkiwi said on 2010-12-02 @ 23:35 NZDT: Report abusive post

    To the families of the miners, my condolences. My thoughts have been with over the last 13 days, I have shed tears for your loss and hope that the support you have been shown in some small way helps. You will remain in my thoughts.

  • james q said on 2010-12-02 @ 17:17 NZDT: Report abusive post

    Tragedy has brought Australia & New Zealand together yet again. My thought are with the West Coasters in NZ from the west coast of Australia.

  • wellthatsafinemess said on 2010-12-02 @ 13:50 NZDT: Report abusive post

    when your here your here when your gone your gone there is nothing to be said there is nothing can be done and when the bell tolls your on the final run to your maker you may fly upon wings of mercy sigh forever you will be in our hearts & our minds eye Rest in Peace Gentlemen.

  • turret said on 2010-12-02 @ 13:27 NZDT: Report abusive post

    to hear your voice,to see you smile to sit and talk to you a while to be together the same old way that would be our greatest wish wish today.....to hear you laugh,to hear you cry on just a chance,to say goodbye to say the things we didn't say that would be our greatest wish today But all we can dois throw flowers on the water look fo the sun through the rain Lay a little flower gentle on the water Remember how we loved you to comb you hair,to lace your boots buy some beer ,let you choose .

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