Live updates from the first 48 hours after the Pike River Coal mine explosion in Atarau on the West Coast. 29 people are missing in the mine.
2:00pm: US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, says she hopes all 29 men still inside are safe and will be rescued. Our prayers are with the missing miners and their families after the November 19 explosion at the Pike River mine in New Zealand, Clinton said.
1:55pm: There's a call on Facebook to light a candle tonight for the Pike River miners. The Facebook page called Miners Hope is calling for people to turn off their lights tonight at nine and simply light a candle for the 29 missing men.
The site which originates in Greymouth calls for people to pray for the miners and keep the candle burning for a minute.
It's asking people to do this until there's some good news from the Pike River mine.
1:30pm: The hole being drilled into the Pike River mine won't be able to be used as a communication tool with those below.
Pike River Coal chief executive Peter Whittall says the trapped men would have to be right at the bottom of the ventilation shaft, and yelling, to be heard.
However Whittall says the men will be able to hear the drill
vibrating through the rock.
1:10pm: Rescuers are still waiting for clear gas samples before they enter the Pike River Mine to find 29 missing West Coast men.
Rescuers are attempting to drill a hole into a different part of the Pike River Mine so they can take more accurate air samples - but it will take all day to do it.
The drill rig is in place on the mountain and Pike River Coal
CEO Peter Whittall says they hope to get it ready to drill by this
12:30pm: Access to water should not be a problem for the men trapped in the mine.
Pike River Coal CEO Peter Whittall says there is drinking water below the surface.
He says as for food, they will have the lunches or afternoon tea
they took underground with them for their shift.
12:23pm: An Australian mining expert says there are many options which could've caused the blast at the Pike River Coal mine. One option discussed caused an explosion in a coal mine in West Virginia earlier this year and had scary similarities to the West Coast crisis.
In that blast a crack opened up in the mine releasing natural gas which mixed with the methane gas - killing 29 people and injuring two others. University of New South Wales professor Bruce Hebblewhite says it's possible this is also what caused the blast here.
12:05pm: The family members visiting the mine portal have left the area.
Two people from each family left Greymouth in two buses at 9.45 this morning and stayed at the site for around an hour.
11:33am: This morning Pike River CEO Tony Whittall said there had been some sort of combustion in the West Coast mine, but he said the combustion wasn't necessarily a fire.
He said: "To put it in context...when you talk about a fire, you think large flames, that sort of thing, but what we're talking about is the gases that arise from combustion, and that can be just a low smoldering of coal underground, it's not necessarily a fire, it's just that gasses that have given off that material has been combusted. It's most likely coal, but it could also be some oils or something else underground that's smoldering."
11:08am: Family members of the 29 men trapped in the Pike River Coal mine have been taken to visit the area around the mine portal to see first-hand the efforts being made to rescue their loved ones.
Two people from each family left Greymouth in two buses at 9.45 this morning for what is expected to be a three or four hour visit.
Pike Chief Executive, Peter Whittall, is with them.
10:47am: Pike River Coal has accepted an offer from Air New Zealand to provide trauma counsellors to the families of the missing men.
Pike CEO Peter Whittall says 30 crisis trained people have been offered - 11 of them are already in Greymouth.
Whittall says they will be working with Victim Support, Red
Cross and other agencies to help the families.
10:45am: The chairman of Pike River Coal says safety is its number one priority. International mining experts have raised concerns about safety issues at the mine including a gas drainage engineer saying operating standards were extremely poor.
But John Dow says since day one they have operated with the highest safety standards.
10:07am: Energy minister Gerry
Brownlee told Q&A this morning that there will be an
inquiry into what went wrong at the Pike River mine, once it's all
He acknowledges mining's a hazardous industry - but says no one quite knows what's happened in this case.
10:01:There are calls for the names of the men
trapped in the Pike River mine to be released. Police told a media
conference this morning the names won't be made public until next
of kin are contacted.
However, Grey District Mayor Tony Kokshoorn says the names need to be released.
10:00am: Reverend Tim Mora , the vicar of the Cobden-Rununga Anglican church just north of Greymouth told Paul Holmes on Q&A this morning that although the families of the miners were holding on to hope, that reality was also starting to set in for many.
He said many people want answers. "People want to know what plan b is, what plan c is."
He said Greymouth had suffered a lot of tragedy over the years, but that when there's tragedy everyone pulls together and looks after its own. Everyone knows either personally or indirectly someone that's affected, he said.
9:45am: ONE News reporter Lorelei Mason, who is near the entrance of the mine, told TV ONE's Q and A that helicopters have been coming and going all morning.
She says families are grateful they will get a chance to visit the entrance of the mine, as was announced by Pike River Coal CEO Peter Whittall this morning.
9:20am: Support for the West Coast miners is pouring in from around the globe. Superintendent Gary Knowles says police colleagues everywhere are offering help.
9:10am: Grey District Mayor Tony Kokshoorn refuses to give up hope, in spite of questions increasingly being raised over who could survive the explosion.
He told TV ONE's Q and A this morning that it's getting tougher by the day.
"We just want good news," he said. "There is a real despair now, they just want their men back." He said the families do appreciate what police and rescue workers are doing, but that the atmosphere is tense.
"There is hope out there, and until someone tells us otherwise,
we're sticking with the option that the men are coming out."
8:33am: Rescuers hope to drill a hole into a different part of the Pike River Mine today - but it will take all day to do it.
The drill rig is in place on the mountain and Pike River Coal CEO Peter Whittall says they hope to get there by this evening.
It will be a small hole, just big enough to take gas samples
from slightly further into the mine than they have been doing so
8:25am: Tasman District police area commander Superintendent Gary Knowles told media that they are still focussing on a rescue operation, however can not start the mission yet.
He said they are looking at many options and that the major focus was getting "these guys home." He said risks were still huge and that he was not prepared to put more men underground with the level of risk present.
Safety is paramount, he said. "I'm not going to put 16 men underground and lose them."
"We are dealing with people's lives here...we are waiting until it is safe to go underground." Knowles said families were distraught - but that they understand what police are facing.
"They understand the risks," he said. He said police were giving the families the best advice they can and have been updating them constantly.
8:20am: Pike River Coal chief executive Peter Whittall has just told media that latest samples show that it is not yet safe to enter the mine for a rescue mission.
He said there has been some sort of combustion in the West Coast mine, but says the combustion isn't necessarily a fire.
"The samples we took do indicate that we have a heating of some sort underground. That means that there has some combustion of material and that's generating the gasses that go with that - carbon monoxide, and a slight increase in ethane and some other gasses."
He said tests do indicate that gases are downward trending however. He told media that families of the miners will be bussed to the site so they can get a better understanding of what is happening and get a sense of what police and rescue teams are doing.
He says while some family members are very familiar with the mine, others - particularly those related to the contractors involved - are not.
7:58am: ONE News has been told the press
conference scheduled for 8am this morning has been delayed. We will
update with the new time as soon as we can.
7:25am: Grey District mayor Tony Kokshoorn has echoed the frustration of the West Coast community, saying the police and search and rescue are doing everything they can, but they are between a rock and a hard place.
He is addressing family members this morning and says he can really see the despair on the faces of the families.
7:00am: British Prime Minister David Cameron has offered his support in the wake of the disaster. Two Britons are among the trapped. Cameron sent a text message to Prime Minister John Key saying he is thinking and praying for the best.
6:19am: Police at the Pike River mine have confirmed that tests of the air quality there were called off, because gas levels were rising. There have been no developments overnight as the agonising wait continues for the families of the 29 men who remain trapped.
5:34am: The Greymouth community awaits police and rescue updates. A press conference will be held at Greymouth police station this morning at 8am.
4:34am: There will be further tests on the mine's air quality this morning. However the message from the man in charge, Knowles, remains the same: He is adamant safety must come first.
4:32am: Special mention was made at Labour's by-election victory party in Mana last night of the tough time facing families on the West Coast.
Labour leader Phil Goff and new MP Kris Faafoi say their thoughts and prayers are with all those affected.
4:01am: Australian rescue specialists have arrived in New Zealand with a team of eight from New South Wales, four more from Queensland, and a technical expert from the federal government. Another team of 12 is on standby.
3:58am: Some words of encouragement from across the Tasman: Australia's Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd said his nation stands ready to help.
3:56am: The mine explosion has generated major coverage from worldwide media, including CNN, BBC, Al Jazeera, Wall Street Journal, and the Telegraph.
3:26am: The explosion at Pike River Coal mine has triggered bad memories of past coal mine tragedies to resurface. One hundred and eighty-one lives have been lost since 1896 in coal mines in New Zealand.
1:50am: As the 29 men spend their second night underground, the waiting continues for safety clearance to be given for rescuers to enter the Pike River coal mine. The small close-knit town of Greymouth is doing all it can to remain upbeat.
1:20am: The long-term future of Greymouth's economy is being considered as people wait anxiously for news of the trapped mine workers.
A local resident who attended a church service for the men said other than the obvious concern residents have for the wellbeing of the miners, the town's economic future could be threatened.
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11:55pm: Police continue to receive offers of support and were assessing those offers.
"In the meantime we have excellent input from the experts already here, specially the mine rescue specialists.
"There is also significant support and back up being provided by police from around the country. We are bringing in extra staff to provide help across a range of roles and support functions," Knowles said.
11:49pm: Knowles said police would continue to work through the night constantly reassessing the situation, which was "complex with numerous risks".
"Everyone here is totally focussed on getting these men out and returning them to their families," Knowles said.
11:17pm: Everyone in the West Coast town of Greymouth has some connection to at least one of men trapped in the Pike River Coal Mine.
Priest Tim Mora, who was at a church service held for the 29 trapped men, said while it's an anxious waiting game, people are holding out hope for their safe return. Mora said in a town that is centred on the mining, everyone's feeling the weight of the situation.
9.43pm: Labour leader Phil Goff said the party's thoughts are with the families of the missing miners in Greymouth.
8.51pm: Families and friends of the trapped miners have gathered for church services. Some are preparing to spend the night together to provide comfort as they wait out another night.
7:47pm: Police have announced that it is unlikely there will be a rescue operation until at least tomorrow.
No more air sample test will be conducted until the morning after the last sample was taken this afternoon.
Police are making it clear the team is in a holding pattern and can enter the mine as soon as it is safe to do so.
7:23pm: Greymouth police have confirmed the nationalities of the 29 trapped miners:
24 New Zealanders
2 British citizens
1 South African
6:34pm: Pike River Coal CEO Peter Whittall says the two men who made it out of the mine have not been able to provide much information about the situation underground.
Fifty-year-old Greymouth electrician Russell Smith, and 24 year-old loader driver Daniel Rockhouse were released from Grey Base Hospital today after being treated for blast injuries, but Whittall said one of the men was very disorientated when he came out, and the other was only able to give limited information.
5:56pm: Telecom has offered any help and resources it can provide to assist the Pike River Mine explosion rescue effort, temporarily increasing existing mobile coverage in the region. It is expected to be operational by midday tomorrow.
4:13pm: The 29 people trapped in the Pike River Coal mine have now been missing for more than 24 hours.
4.09pm: Australia is sending a team of rescue experts to assist with the mine rescue, which includes a technical expert from Emergency Management Australia and six mine rescue experts from New South Wales Emergency Management. "These forms of assistance will be deployed today and other forms of assistance remain ready for deployment should that be necessary," said Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd.
3.27pm: More from John Key: "Of course the big issue now is balancing the rescue of the miners with the safety and security of those that have to undertake that operation. It is a difficult time for everyone but we are determined to get the men out alive."
3.05pm: The West Coast District Health Board is ready and waiting for any rescued miners who may need urgent medical care. Grey Base Hospital spokesman Bryan Jamieson says an emergency response plan is in place.
2.25pm: Prime Minister John Key said the priority is to get the "29 brave men" out of the mine. He revealed Prince William sent him an email to say his thoughts are with New Zealand.
The media conference has now come to an end.
2.23pm: Knowles: "We have had a huge outpouring of support from around the world." He said NZ police have been in touch with authorities in Chile.
2.21pm: Whittall: There has always been gas in the mine but there have not been any previous explosions. "It is a moderately gassy mine."
He said: "If you turn off the ventilation, the gas naturally builds up in any mine."
2.17pm: Whittall says water and food are not yet an issue as the miners have been in the mine for less than 24 hours. The temperature is also not a problem.
2.16pm: Whittall: "There's 29 men down there and there's 29 families and there's 29 different circumstances and 29 different levels of understanding. They're all dealing with it in their own way."
2.15pm: Superintendent Knowles: "We don't work on guts. We work on facts. I'm not giving a percentage to the families."
2.13pm: The rescuers will have to walk 2.5kms which underground "is a very long way", Knowles said.
2.10pm: Whittall said the level of carbon monoxide in the mine is crucial, but they don't know what that is at this stage.
2.08pm: Knowles added that it will be up to the rescuers to decide when they are confident to go in.
Asked about the timing, he said: "It could happen overnight, it could happen in the next hour. We are not going to speculate."
2.02pm: Superintendent Gary Knowles said: "I am not prepared to put people underground until we know it is a safe environment."
He said rescue helicopters have taken air samples from the top of the ventilation shaft. Whittall said the results are inconclusive.
He said rescue helicopters have taken air samples from the top of the ventilation shaft but it has not been possible to give the go ahead as yet.
2.00pm: Whittall says the mine is "not very big". When rescue teams go in they will attempt to establish a safe air area before searching the mine.
1.58pm: Pike River Coal CEO Peter Whittall is demonstrating safety equipment used in the mine at a press conference in Greymouth.
1.38pm: Prime Minister John Key is due to arrive in Greymouth shortly and will go straight to the Red Cross Centre to offer support to families of the trapped miners.
1.12pm - Police say they are yet to receive the results from the latest testing of vents at the scene of yesterday's mine explosion.
Superintendent Gary Knowles said the latest in a series of four air quality tests over vent shafts at the remote mine had now been completed. They are currently awaiting results.
"Until we receive this information, no decisions will be made on when a mine rescue team might be able to access the tunnel."
1.05pm - Grey District mayor Tony Kokshoorn's claims that rescuers are nearly set to enter the mine may be premature.
ONE News reporter Lisa Davies has spoken to police who say they are still waiting for a number of tests and that it could still be some time before the rescue mission can get underway.
12.10pm - Three out of the four tests which have been done on the Pike River Coal mine have come back clear. It means rescuers may be able to enter the mine within the hour.
11.40am - ONE News reporter Lisa Davies has spoken to Valma McGowan, whose husband was killed in the Black Reef mining accident in March 2006.
She said she vomited when she heard the news of the West Coast explosion.
"It brings it all back and all I can think about are those poor men down there, and their families and what they're going through."
She said the families of the West Coast miners will be numb and anxious.
"They'll just be living in hope. That's all they can do, isn't it?"
11.20am - Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard has promised her country's full support to assist in the rescue efforts.
"Our hearts certainly go out to the New Zealanders who would now be waiting very, very anxiously for news of their loved ones and friends," Gillard said at the end of the opening day of the NATO summit in Portugal.
"If there is any assistance that we can offer, then we certainly will offer it. We will stay in touch with our New Zealand counterparts."
11.05am - Rescuers are having trouble determining how dangerous the gas in the Piker River Coal mine is.
Rain and overcast weather today prevented a helicopter flying to a ventilation shaft to get an air sample so rescuers can decide if it is safe to into the mine.
Pike River Mine CEO Peter Whittall said if men had to go in by foot to get the air sample it could take up to eight hours to get there and back.
11.00am - The Holy Trinity church and St Patrick's Catholic church in Greymouth will both be holding a service at 6.00pm for the miners' families and supporters.
10.55am - The two miners who walked out of the mine, Russell Smith and Daniel Rockhouse, are being discharged from Grey Base Hospital this morning.
The hospital has told ONE News they are physically well enough to be discharged.
Doctors say they were given oxygen overnight.
10.45am - New Zealand Red Cross says the Hokitika Welfare Team caravan is now being used to set up a catering facility at the location near the mine where families are gathering, to offer further assistance.
Members of the Christchurch response team with additional welfare equipment are also on their way to the area.
10.30am - A summary of the main points so far:
The explosion happened just before 4.00pm yesterday and was near the surface, next to a ventilation shaft.
There are 29 people still trapped underground - 16 Pike River employees and 13 contractors.
There has been no communication with the trapped miners.
Officials are worried about a second explosion and are waiting for methane levels to drop and for weather to clear.
Ventilation systems are still offline and rescuers are waiting to be given the all clear at the mine entrance.
It's unlikely that the explosion will cause a collapse.
It's an advantage that it's a tunnel mine and not a shaft mine, as people can walk in and out.
10.00am - Watch this morning's press conference.
9.45am - Specialist gas testing equipment has been flown in from Australia this morning to help with the rescue operation at the Pike River coal mine.
Air quality safety concerns have so far prevented access into the tunnel mine which has been driven up into the hillside - unlike the Chilean mine which was a shaft mine. Once conditions are declared safe and stable then specialist rescuers will enter the mine.
Police confirmed 29 men aged between 17 and 62 years are trapped in the mine. Most are New Zealanders but there are some Australian and British nationals.
9.30am - ONE News reporter Lisa Davies is at the police cordon 13km from the mine. She has been there since dawn and says since then ambulances and other miners have been allowed through the cordon.
She said a local farmer was also allowed through the cordon to deliver food to the rescuers. Davies spoke to the farmer on his return from the mine. He says the mood is "very grim".
8.45am - Whittall has described what one of the men who managed to get out of the mine yesterday felt. He said he was knocked to the ground and knocked unconscious at the time of the explosion. Whittall said both men who walked out of the mine were badly shaken and disorientated.
8.30am - Whittall says fresh air is being pumped into the mine.
"It's quite conceivable that there is a large number of men sitting around the end of an open pipe, waiting and wondering why we're taking our time to get to them."
8.25am - Superintendent Gary Knowles has told the press conference there have been offers of support globally in the rescue effort.
"This is a search and rescue operation. We're going to bring these guys home," he says.
Knowles says the miners' families have chosen not to speak to the media at this time. He says the families will be updated with developments on an hourly basis.
8.20am - Pike River CEO Peter Whittall has told a press conference they hope to know by 2.00pm the state of ventilation in the mine, so a rescue can take place.
He says there is an advantage in that the mine is a tunnel mine and not a shaft mine. He has also said there are 29 miners trapped - 16 Pike River Coal employees and 13 contractors.
7.35am - Tasman Police Communications Manager Barbara Dunn has told ONE News: "It's been a very long night, with not a lot of progress made."
Dunn says as soon as the all-clear is given, rescuers will be heading into the mine.
"It's a volatile situation. There's always the potential for a second blast, so we just can't send anyone down there until we know it's safe."
7.15am - Police and Pike River Coal say they will hold a joint news conference at 8am. They say they have still been unable to make contact with the miners and contractors trapped inside the mine.
6.35am - McBride says from what he can gather, a helicopter has taken samples from the mine over to Solid Energy, which is a few ridges over.
He says there are mixed emotions at the mine. He spoke to a miner who had worked there earlier in the day and he said "something of this magnitude certainly doesn't look good". However, he says there is some optimism., with the positioning of oxygen points around the mine.
"If [the miners] were in the right spot at the right time, there could be hope," McBride says.
6.15am - ONE News cameraman and West Coast local Patrick McBride has been at the scene of the explosion overnight and told ONE News rescuers have still not been able to enter the mine.
5.43am: All Blacks captain Richie McCaw has sent well-wishes from Ireland ahead of the test there. He told NZPA: "It's not good when you hear things like that happen back home ... We have to wait and see what happens, hopefully the people are OK."
5.31am: Pike River Coal chairman says it is possible the miners could have made it to the mine's safety refuges. He said even if there was gas in other parts of the mine, as rescuers have been fearing, there could be fresh air in the refuges.
5.23am: Grey District Mayor Tony Kokshoorn believes the miners could be 3 kilometres or more inside the mine.
5.11am: The rescue operation has yet to start with tests still underway on the mine's ventilation system to make sure it's safe for rescuers to go in.
3:58am: Kokshoorn says the missing men could be some distance into the mine.
2.31am: John Key has said the situation has the
potential to be very serious and said the government would
provide "any support that is required". He also said the
Australian government had been in contact and offered its
support and assistance.
2.17am: The mine explosion is garnering huge interest from overseas media. CNN international led its bulletin with the incident and Al Jazeera and BBC are also covering it. All the major Australian websites are covering the story as are the Wall Street Journal, telegraph.co.uk and the New York Times.
1.58am: Pike River Coal says chief executive Peter Whittall will hold a media conference on the mine rescue effort at 7.30am tomorrow.
1.24am: Grey District mayor Tony Kokshoorn has put the number of trapped miners at 28.
1.04am: Grey District Mayor Tony Kokshoorn says one of his own councillors is among those missing in the mine. Kokshoorn says Grey District Councillor Milton Osborne (pictured below) is a contractor at the Pike River Coal mine.
12.53am: Pike River Coal chairman John Dow says he is frustrated he doesn't have more answers. Dow says he does not know what caused the explosion at the company's West Coast mine and he does not know where in the mine the men are.
12.42am: Rescue workers remain outside the mine portal amid concerns about ventilation inside. Air quality testing is being carried out as workers investigate whether it's safe to enter the mine.
12.22am:More than 2000 people have now joined the Support the Pike River miners Facebook page, where messages of support have been coming in by the minute.
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11.57pm: Labour Leader Phil Goff has released a statement expressing concern for the trapped miners and their families.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with the miners, their families
who are waiting anxiously for news and for the West Coast community
which is shocked by the incident and its potential
"We know that the government and emergency agencies will do everything humanly possible to rescue those caught up in this disaster. We hope and pray the miners can be reached and recovered as soon as possible," said Phil Goff.
11.39pm: A welfare centre has been set up for the families of miners. Police said the centre, at the Red Cross Hall, 180 Tainui Street, Greymouth, is a warm and dry gathering point for family members as they anxiously await news from the mine site. Red Cross and Victim Support volunteers are at the centre providing comfort and refreshments. Families are encouraged to use the welfare centre instead of trying to reach the mine's access road which is closed to all but those involved in the rescue and recovery operation.
11.18pm: Pike River Chairman John Dow said all of the miners are equipped with portable self-rescuers, which they are trained to use in the pitch dark, they also carry lamps. He said a gas build-up is the principal hazard at the moment, but the miners all know where additional air is stored in the mine.
10.52pm: Grey district mayor Tony Kokshorn says he is "hanging on" to the case of the Chile miners who were recently rescued. He said that was giving the families hope.
10.48pm: There are reports from the scene of a great deal of activity, including ventilation pipes being taken to the mine.
10.44pm: St John has sent a team of seven paramedics to the West Coast by air and road, in preparation for any rescue efforts tomorrow. Three other St John staff will remain at the scene overnight in case they are required.
10.43pm: The families of the 27 missing men are being asked to gather at the Moonlight Hall near Blackball to wait for news. Pike River spokesman Dick Knapp says they'll receive support and information there.
10.25pm: A Facebook group already has more than 400 followers. Comments include this from Sally Marden: "Prayers and thoughts to everyone involved ... will be with you all night, and as long as it takes."
10.10pm: Both the injured men at Grey Hospital are up "walking and talking", police said.
Tasman Police District Commander Superintendent Gary Knowles is travelling from his Nelson Headquarters to the mine tonight to oversee the police operation.
He said: "We appreciate this is a very uncertain and worrying
time for families and friends of the miners and contractors
who are at the mine. We are working closely with mine
officials and other emergency services to do everything
can to help with the rescue operation."
Police said they do not expect to have any further updates until tomorrow morning.
9.52pm: Pike River chairman John Dow has just told TVNZ: "It is absolutely awful. At the moment our real focus is on our people down there."
CEO Peter Whittall is flying to Christchurch now and will get to the mine in the early hours. "That is where he should be, with his people," Dow said.
He said he could not speculate on the causes of the accident as he did not have any information on that. "We don't know actually what happened," he said.
He could not confirm that any more than two people have come out of the mine.
It was known the main tunnel was not blocked, but it had not yet been possible to check the ventilation shaft, Dow said.
9.34pm: The mine rescue team is trying to make sure the vents were clear as there was a potential for a buildup of gas. Until that happens, it is unsafe for rescuers to enter the mine, police spokeswoman Barbara Dunn said. There is also a concern that ventilation inside the mine shaft may not be working properly without power.
"They're itching to get in there and start looking for other people and a bit frustrated at having to stand and wait," she said.
9.12pm: Mine rescuers have not gone in yet and TVNZ has been told it could be days as they cannot be sure the mine is safe at this stage.
9.02pm: More details on the injuries of the men who have made it out of the mine: both have moderate blast injuries, one remains in the Emergency Department at Grey Base Hospital, the other is now on a ward.
9.00pm: Pike River CEO Peter Whittall says there are two routes out of the mine. He says the rescue operation will be different to that conducted in Chile as this mine has steep terrain, and the shafts run horizontally into the hill, not vertically into the ground.
8.52pm: Two injured miners have arrived at the
Grey Base Hospital. They were taken to Greymouth by road.
Hospital spokesman Brian Jameson says their injuries are not life threatening.
8.41pm: Doug Gordon, the CEO of the New Zealand Minerals Industry Association, says: ""What is not uncommon with underground coal mines is the risk of gas explosions. Just by the nature that it's underground means that gas can collect in underground pockets, whereas you wouldn't have that if it was an open pit."
8.10pm: Mine expert David Feickert tells TVNZ rescue workers will have to be cautious as there is the danger of another explosion. He said NZ mines have excellent safety records and rescue teams will be very well trained.
8.04pm: Energy Minister Gerry Brownlee said he intends to travel to the West Coast tonight with Kate Wilkinson, the Minister of Labour and Conservation. He said the Prime Minister is being kept informed about events as they unfold.
Brownlee said: "Details of the incident are sketchy at this stage. The Government stands ready to offer whatever help and resources are required. Various agencies, including Police, Fire, Ambulance and hospitals, are already involved. The West Coast mine rescue team has been activated."
- A mine explosion was reported just before 4pm.
- Fire crews, police and six ambulances are at the scene. Rescue helicopters are on their way.
- Pike River Coal says 27 people are trapped underground. There has been no communication with them.
- Two miners have made it out of the mine and another three are believed to be on their way out.
- One of the men who made it out of the mine was a loader driver found blown off his vehicle about 1500m in from an entrance to the mine.
7.53pm: Police say they have not had any reports of fatalities at this stage.
7.44pm: Emergency workers are about to go into the mine.
7.32pm - Mining expert David Feickert said it is not yet known if it was a gas explosion or a coal dust explosion or a combination of both.
"This is what the rescue teams will be determining along with the management team on the spot," he told TV ONE's Close Up. "That's very important in terms of any rescue that's going to take place. That's the first thing they need to determine and certainly if it is safe for them to go in."
7.30pm - Pike River CEO Peter Whittall said they believe there are 27 men underground - 15 Pike River employees and another 12 contractors working on various activities this afternoon.
"There's no evidence of any fatalities at this stage," he told TV ONE's Close Up.
7.25pm - Police say there is concern that ventilation inside the mine shaft may be compromised by a power outage.
7.15pm - Police have confirmed that a loader driver and one other miner made it safely out of the mine a short time ago. They told police that three others are also making their own way out.
7.12pm - EPMU boss Andrew Little told TV ONE's Close Up "there are quite a few miners unaccounted for".
7.10pm - Reporter Robyn Jane told Close Up: "I've just been talking to my camerman who has been flying over the scene. He says it looks like there's been a massive explosion.
"There are charred trees, there's been a hut blown off the hill, and one of the portals, not the main portal, one of the smaller ones, there's still a lot of smoke."
7.00pm - A large group of family and friends of the miners is already gathering at the mine.
FRIDAY NOVEMBER 19 6.55pm - An ambulance has left the site of the mine and is embarking on the hour-long journey to Grey Base Hospital. The hospital was unclear as to how many patients they were about to receive.