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Second blast ends chance of rescue for New Zealand miners

by Jorge Hernandez on November 24, 2010

After a second explosion rocked a New Zealand mine, all 29 individuals trapped beneath the surface are believed to be dead, erasing any hope of a Chile-esque miracle, Reuters reports.

The miners became trapped on Friday when methane gas caused a massive explosion in the Pike River Mine. Two miners were able to escape the initial accident.

At first, rescuers were deterred from attempting to enter the mine because of toxic gases and the danger of future explosions. Early Wednesday, those fears were confirmed as an explosion sealed the miners' fates. Although the second blast removed any hope, the miners likely died after the first incident, experts said.

Despite the danger of entering the mine following the first blast, several relatives of those who perished are criticizing rescuers' hesitance to enter the area, and think it may have saved lives.

"Now the truth can't come out because no one down there will come out alive," Laurie Drew, father of a trapped miner, told the news source. "If they do find that people were alive after that first blast there is going to be a lot of problems."

However, rescue officials claim that the second explosion vindicates their choice to hold off on entering the mine, and their actions may have saved lives of rescue workers.

The disaster occurred on the west coast of the island nation, which is home to two of the country's most deadly mining disasters – including an explosion in 1943 that killed 43 people.

The Pike River mine is New Zealand’s largest coal mine, and opened in 2008. The 29 men killed varied in age from 17 to 62, and BBC News reports that local residents are taking the news exceptionally hard.

"This has got to be the darkest day for me, for Greymouth, for everywhere," Grey District Mayor Tony Kokshoorn told reporters.

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