Third Explosion at Pike River Mine

In Australasia, News Headlines

There has been a third explosion at the Pike River coal mine in New Zealand, where 29 men are presumed dead underground.

The blast, which reportedly lasted for around 23 seconds, is said to have happened shortly after 3:30pm (local time).

It comes just two days after a second violent explosion at the mine left no hope of survival for the men who had been trapped underground since last Friday.

A spokesman for the mine has been quoted as saying the blast was smaller than the previous two.

No-one was injured in the latest explosion, which was felt less than an hour after a minute’s silence was held at the site to remember those killed.

Pike River Coal chairman John Dow says it will have no effect on the plans in place to recover the bodies.

“I’ve consistently said that this has been a potentially explosive environment from the beginning,” he said.

“The fact that we’ve had two more explosions since the first one confirms the environment continues to remain unstable, but we’ve known that all along, so it won’t make any difference.

“Obviously, the sooner we can get on and do this the better, but there are some processes that [we] have to go through – the evaluation of which technique we would use still has to be done.

“We have all of the equipment required for either of those choices on site.

“That won’t be a decision made by Pike River staff. It will be made by other people, by the authorities, and that decision I imagine would be made shortly.”

The rescue and recovery effort has been repeatedly hampered by poisonous gases and the threat of underground explosions.

Among those killed were two Australian men from Queensland – William Joynson, 49, and Joshua Ufer, 25.

The miners were declared dead on Wednesday afternoon after a second massive explosion tore through the underground tunnels.

Footage of the second mine explosion, which Mr Dow describes as “devastating”, was shown during a Pike River Coal board meeting today.

Overnight a robot went 1.5 kilometres into the mine and observed the damage from the second blast.

Pike River chief executive Peter Whittall says the robot was blocked from going further into the mine by debris from the blast.

He says footage from the robot, in combination with accounts from the survivors of the original blast, indicate the second explosion was much more powerful.

“Given my humble opinion that it subjectively looked [like a] lot more violence, and the evidence around the portal and the shaft was such that it was and the video footage we’ve got would indicate that it was a much more violent blast,” he said.

Mr Whittall has again said the levels of gas in the mine remain dangerous and it could take one to two weeks for the bodies of the miners to be recovered.

But he says a machine to help neutralise the poisonous gases in the mine has arrived from Australia and is on its way to the site.

Greymouth mayor Tony Kokshoorn says a national memorial service will be held in the town on Thursday.

He says it will be held at the race course which has a view of the Paparoa Range, where the Pike River mine is located, just outside the town.

More than 400 families and friends visited the site today to put up photos and grieve for their loved ones.

Pike River Coal says it will fully cooperate with all inquiries into the three explosions.

The company will also conduct its own internal investigation into what happened to cause the explosions.

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