A second explosion at Pike River has destroyed any chance of rescuing the 29 miners...
by Peter Petterson
A second explosion shortly before 3pm this afternoon has destroyed even the remotest chance of rescuing the 29 trapped miners at the Pike River coalmine just outside of Greymouth on the West Coast of New Zealand's South Island.
There are fears at present that they may never be able to even recover the twenty nine bodies of the dead miners - because there is now no possibility that they could have survived this second explosion, if indeed they survived the initial explosion in the mine last Friday afternoon, New Zealand time.
New Zealand had received help from Australian and American mine safety experts. Robots had been flown in from both countries - they were to take over from the two NZ defence force robots which had proven inadequate. Australian safety experts had been at Greymouth since Saturday. The spirit of Anzac was evident on the West Coast during the last few days. You might say it was reciprocal help for the assistance given by Kiwi firefighters to their Aussie counterparts during the horrific bushfires in Victoria a couple of years ago. It was much appreciated!
The families of the Kiwi miners were totally shattered by the outcome. The CEO of the Pike River coal company, Peter Whittle, proved a tower of strength and a great leader during the last few days. The police commander came under intense criticism for not sending searchers into the mine; advice suggested the possibility of another explosion. The Government organised the necessary support and resources, with government ministers and the PM,John Key, on site during the last few days. They were vindicated for their actions this afternoon. The outcome was not what everybody hoped for, but it was always a distinct possibility. The poisonous gases in the mine included methane, ethane and carbon monoxide. the latter may well have killed the miners days ago.
Firstly, there will be families from New Zealand, Australia and South Africa coming together for a final farewell to their kinfolk - sons, fathers, brothers, husbands and partners. There may well be no bodies to bury. They could well be interred in the Pike River mine indefinately, or eternally. It could well become their collective tomb. Only time will tell.
There will be decisions made about the future of the Pike River company; will a replacement mine be established there? A number of enquiries will also have to be made, including a NZ Government Commission of Enquiry in a few months.
The coal remains underground, and a much needed industry must continue in the district; about 300 people are employed directly or indirectly in the coal industry there. There is also a state owned Solid Energy mine on the West Coast. The latter has has been idle in recent days as they have supplied much needed assistance to Pike River.
A number of negative claims made about the Pike River mine will have to be discussed during the enquiries. It is the worst coal industry accident since the Strongman mine tragedy of a few decades ago. It is New Zealand's worst domestic loss of life since the Air New Zealand crash in Antarctica back in the 1970's. The Christchurch earthquake a few months ago will cost over 4.5 million dollars in insurance and rebuilding, but there was no direct loss of life through accidental death.
There will be many stories written in coming days, weeks, months and years, but this is the way I saw it today.