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Pike River Mine disaster - Day 6 after second explosion

Published: 6:09AM Wednesday November 24, 2010 Source: ONE News/NZPA/ Newstalk ZB

Live updates on the situation at the Pike River coal mine where 29 men  have been confirmed dead after a secondary explosion on Wednesday afternoon.

Details of Day Six (before the second blast) As it happened are here .

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

05:20am As well as New Zealand, parts of Australia will also fly their flags at half-mast today to mourn the 29 miners. New South Wales Premier Kristina Keneally has called on all government agencies to fly their Australian flags at half mast as a mark of respect and has 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.

05:14am Miners at Solid Energy are conveying their deepest sympathy and support for the families of the 29 Pike River miners and all colleagues and communities on the West Coast. The message has been conveyed by Solid Energy's CEO, Dr Don Elder.

5:05am The Green Party has offered its condolences to the families of the victims today. West Coast based MP Kevin Hague says it's no secret his party opposed the Pike River mine and didn't think it was an appropriate place to have a mine but he says their priority now is around supporting the families who've been affected by the deaths.

4:30am The Pike River Mine explosion is the worst mining disaster in New Zealand since 43 coal miners were killed in an explosion at Ralph's Mine in Waikato on Sept 12, 1914. NZ's worst mining disaster ever is still the Brunner mine accident, about 25km from Pike River and essentially the same coal block, where 65 coal miners were killed on March 26, 1896.

4:05am An international expert in mental health says the circumstances of the Pike River disaster make it particularly difficult for the miners' families to deal with.

Professor Beverley Raphael from Western Sydney University says the fact other mine rescues such as that in Chile were successful, makes it especially hard.

She says it's always terrible when people lose a loved one unexpectedly, and even more so when they have died in tragic circumstances where there had been hopes they may have been alive.

2:37am Recap of events since the second explosion.

It is now 12 hours since the second explosion at the Pike River mine at 2:37pm yesterday. Mine boss Peter Whittall - who broke the news to the families around 4:30pm yesterday that all of the trapped miners were presumed dead - said CCTV footage he saw showed a longer, stronger explosion than the first.

Work continues at the mine with Whittall saying they would do everything they could to recover the bodies . Police said they believed there was no chance any of the 29 men could have survived.

Messages of support and condolences have come in from around the world while locally people have shared their thoughts online and a vigil was held in Greymouth last night.

More details are emerging of the 29 men and a fund has been started for donations.

Flags will fly at half-mast in New Zealand today, said Prime Minister John Key in his statement and three official inquiries are beginning into the disaster.

1:40am The All Blacks will ask the Wales Rugby Union to allow a minute's silence in respect of the mine victims before the game in Cardiff on Sunday. They will also wear armbands, possibly white.
Cory Jane has tweeted a message of support saying their hearts go out to the family and friends of the 29 men.

12:50am The mine tragedy is New Zealand's single biggest loss of life since the Mt Erebus plane crash of November 1979 when 257 people died . The Queen has sent a message to John Key sharing her sadness at the news of the second explosion and 29 deaths. 

11:55pm Wellington Cathedral of St Paul (cnr Hill and Molesworth Streets, Thorndon, Wellington) will be open from 7am today (Thursday morning) for people to pray and/or light a candle. Public prayers will be offered on the hour every hour throughout the day. A bell will toll across the city for 10 minutes at midday.

11:15pm Inquiries will begin tomorrow (Thursday). A series of inquiries will be held, following the presumed deaths of 29 men in the Pike River coal mine. A commission of inquiry promised by Key and Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson is expected to be signed off by Cabinet on Monday. Chief Coroner Judge Neil MacLean has set the ball rolling for his own special inquiry, starting tomorrow, after being told that police were satisfied there had been 29 deaths.
Energy Minister Gerry Brownlee says multiple investigations will include cause of death, police inquiries, and whether there were breaches of regulations.

10:37pm: Guy Sebastian Tweet: Thoughts and prayers go out to all affected by the tremendous loss in the NZ mines. Very sad day.

10:14pm: The BBC reports that British Foreign Secretary William Hague speaks of his immense sadness at the New Zealand miners' deaths.

9:54pm: The ANZ opens a fund to support the Pike River miners. Branches of the ANZ and National Bank will take donations for the families of the miners. ANZ has kickstarted the fund with $100,000.

9.46pm: News of the Pike river disaster is reverberating around the world - with messages pouring in on Twitter and Facebook.

9:45pm: Sarah Palin Tweet: So very sorry for the loss of 29 lives in New Zealand's Pike River Mine. May prayers comfort the families & loved ones who will never forget.

9:15pm Hundreds of people have gathered at Holy Trinity Church in Greymouth, following this afternoon's confirmation the 29 Pike River miners are dead.
Those among the congregation include mine boss Peter Whittall. He's been hugged by Daniel Rockhouse - one of the two men who walked out of the mine after Friday's explosion.

Daniel's brother Ben Rockhouse is one of the men who lost their lives in the mine. The Reverend Marge Tefft says it's a devastating day - and she's paid tribute to Peter Whittall.
And Grey District Mayor Tony Kokshoorn presented a message sent earlier from the Pope. The Pontiff says he shares the anxiety of the miners' families, and has them in his prayers.

8:30pm: The Act Party offers its deepest sympathy to the families and friends of all the Pike River Coal miners. "This tragedy has affected us all and it was with great sadness that we learned of the second explosion, which has taken away the last sliver of hope of the miners being rescued. Our thoughts are with the families of those miners at this difficult time," leader Rodney Hide said.

8:00pm: Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard  has extended the nation's condolences to the families of the 29 miners killed. "Our hearts go out to them and on behalf of the Australian people I give the condolences of this nation." Two of the miners - Joshua Adam Ufer, 25, and William John Joynson, 49, were from Queensland. "To those families we especially say, we want you to have our condolences, we want you to understand that the nation is grieving with you at this dreadful and difficult time," she said.

7:55pm: Governor-General Sir Anand Satyanand extends his sympathy, saying the disaster will be felt at many levels and is a great personal loss for the families and friends of those who died. "There will be few on the West Coast who do not have a shared connection of some kind is also important to acknowledge the efforts of those involved in the search and rescue operation." To the families and people of the West Coast: may you all support each other in the knowledge that the wider New Zealand community grieves alongside you.

7:30pm: Local miner Les Neilsen told Close Up the rescue effort has been phenomenal and "armchair critics seemed to know everything, and didn't know anything" .

7:25pm: Mine safety expert David Cliff has backed the rescue operation. He said while theoretically there is a period of time when it can't explode again, that depends on where the blast took place and how rapidly the methane returns. He said it is impossible to predict how soon a second explosion will occur, or even if one will occur.

7:20pm: Police Commissioner Howard Broad said post-explosion conditions in the mine made it impossible to put in rescuers to find the men. He said the operation involved experts across a range of disciplines and "this was an extremely professional and thoroughly detailed operation". Broad said Knowles has had an extremely challenging role and, referring to questions about Knowles' refusal to let rescuers into the mine, Broad said to be subjected to that sort of abuse "was disgraceful".

7:15pm: Laurie Drew, father of one of the miners, said he is still hoping there is a miracle left.

7:10pm: Mayor Tony Kokshoorn says they wore yellow ribbons as a symbol of hope this afternoon. He said families "can't get closure until they've got their loved ones in their arms again". Coal runs through the veins of Coasters, he said. The mayor said the huge build ups of gas meant they coudn't send rescue crews in.
"We'll start a relief fund now."

7:05pm: Whittall acknowledges the support of his family, saying his wife and children know many of the miners and their children well. He says they now need to look at the possibilities for getting the miners out. "I hope everyone realises how hard everyone has been working to get these guys out," Whittall says.

6:50pm: Reverend Marge Tefft says the grief process is long and "this is going to be something that is going to be with us for some time".

6:48pm: A candlelight vigil will be held at 7.30pm in Greymouth. Rev Marge Tefft of the Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Greymouth said it would be a 90-minute vigil. She said there would be another on Saturday at 6pm.

6:45pm: We cannot afford to lose any more people there, the PM said in response to a question about retrieving the bodies of the miners. "Putting rescuers in the mine without the appropriate sign off would have been an unacceptable risk."

6:43pm: The finality of the second explosion "rips at the guts of the country", says Key.

6:41pm: I would like to visit the rescue teams to thank them for their efforts - Key.

6:40pm: A national memorial service is likely says Key, who also says Cabinet will confirm the details of a Commission of Inquiry at its next meeting on Monday.

6:39pm: "On behalf of the people of New Zealand, we send our sympathies to the children who have lost their fathers, the parents who have lost sons, the wives who have lost their husbands, the girlfriends who have lost their partners, the siblings who have lost their brothers." - John Key.

6:37pm: Parliament will rise early tomorrow and flags on government buildings will be at half mast.

6:34pm: Prime Minister John Key says this is a national tragedy. "NZ is a small country and to lose this many at once strikes an agonising blow. We are a nation in mourning."

6:30pm: Auchinvole says the West Coast will be wearing the tragedy as a badge of sorrow for a very long time.

6:22pm: Local MP Chris Auchionvole  says there's a limit to resilience and toughness and people don't have to be tough under these circumstances.

6:14pm: Miners' Union Secretary Andrew Little says even today families and workmates were still hoping the guys might have come out of this. Little says it's now a time of mourning, but later the hard questions will have to be asked about what went so horribly wrong.

6:13pm: Labour Leader Phil Goff is offering his sympathy and condolences to the miners' families. He says it's a devastating shock for them and the entire community and he wants to extend his support and sympathy to those caught up in this terrible tragedy. Goff says they should know the entire country will be mourning with them.

6:12pm: The Chief Coroner has confirmed he will open a special inquiry into the Pike River mine disaster, starting tomorrow. Judge Neil McLean says he will begin working on a process that's designed to help the immediate families of the miners. He says it's too early to say whether an inquest will take place, given the fact that there will be multiple inquiries over time.

6:11pm: Gerry Brownlee says a range of inquiries will begin immediately to find out what happened in the mine.

6:10pm: Authorities have swung into action to support the families of the 29 miners and the West Coast community. Police welfare co-ordinator Brigitte Nimmo says many are reeling from the shock.

6:06pm: Whittall said the explosion was not caused by anybody working in or around the mine.

6:05pm: Energy Minister Gerry Brownlee said it looked good for a while today that a rescue team might get into the mountain but last minute concern about the data was being assessed when the second explosion occurred.

6:00pm: Whittall says they "still want our boys back" and are focusing on retrieving their bodies.

5:58pm: Confirmation that no officials were injured at the mine during the second blast.

5:55pm: Whittall said it was realistic that many wouldnt have come out alive anyway, but this takes us to a point where we are unlilely to see workmates again...unlikely to see them coming out of that mine.

5:50pm: Whittall tells a press conference large volumes of smoke had been seen coming out of the main shaft and CCTV footage confirmed there had been another explosion.

5:48pm: ONE News presenter Peter Williams reports that the blast lasted about 30 seconds and was significantly bigger than the first one.

5:46pm: Archdeacon Tim Mora said this is the "worst possible news" and "what we feared all the time has occurred".

5:45pm: Peter Whittall clarifies earlier reports that rescuers had already gone into the mine to recover bodies. He said no rescuers have gone into the mine.  

5:40pm: Labour MP Damien O'Connor says this is a terrible, terrible disaster. He said he believes everything that could have been done was done, in terms of the rescue operation .

5:36pm: Pike River CEO Peter Whittall broke the devastating news to the families this afternoon. He gave an emotional statement saying that it was an extremely difficult task and that the families had looked to him for hope. He was applauded as he left the room.

5:35pm: Laurie Drew, the father of 21-year-old miner Zen Drew, said he wants to look into reports the mine may not have been safe.

5:30pm: A procession of police and mine workers have been moving through the barrier leading up to the mine. No one has yet confirmed search and rescue has already gone into the mine.

5:27pm: The Greymouth community is described as being in anguish after the news of the miners' death. Tony Kokshoorn said families fell to their knees upon hearing the announcement and that everyone was devastated.

5:26pm: "The cause was the build up over the last six days of the gases again. A lethal mixture ignited the entire mine," said Kokshoorn.

5:25pm: Tony Kokshoorn said search and rescue crews are now being sent into the mine straight away to recover the bodies. He said he has been told the best time to enter the mine is straight after the explosion.

5:20pm: Tony Kokshoorn said the second explosion was far larger than the first one. He also said there was a lot of anger directed at the police after the announcement, but none of it was directed at Pike River CEO Peter Whittall.

5:17pm: Grey District Mayor Tony Kokshoorn has described this as "the West Coast's darkest hour". He says he has heard the cause of the blast was the build up of gases in mine over the past five days. He has been with families after being informed of the deaths.

5:15pm: ONE News reporter Lorelei Mason says there is a flurry of activity at the police cordon blocking access to the mine.

5:11pm: John Key will hold a press conference at the Beehive at 6:30pm.

5:09pm: Mining expert David Feickert says the second explosion is not a surprise. He said in hindsight it was good the rescue teams had not been sent in to face the danger and that it was likely the men became unconscious from carbon monoxide prior to the second explosion.

5:08pm: The Greymouth community is in mourning after the announcement. There is also speculation over the impact of the disaster on the town, whose economy largely depends on the mine.

5:04pm: Earlier today: The initial samples of gas that escaped from a bore-hole drilled into the Pike River coal mine this morning showed high levels of toxic gases and police warned they may never reach zero.

4:49pm: BREAKING NEWS: The families of the Pike River miners have been told at a briefing this afternoon that all 29 men are dead. There has been a second explosion today at 2:37pm. Superintendent Gary Knowles says no-one could have survived that explosion. The afternoon's press conference has been cancelled.

Earlier Live Updates from Wednesday, prior to the second explosion  are here .

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 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 .