When we headed off to bed last night, things were pretty confused at the site of the Pike River mine explosion. From media reports we've read this morning, little has changed. Both Stuff and the Herald are reporting that rescuers are waiting for the all-clear before they swing into action, given the fear of gas build-ups in the mine. The Press reports:
Emergency services are getting ready for a rescue bid to be mounted early today for the 27 people missing in the Pike River coal mine after an explosion, as a warning was issued rescue efforts could take days.
Pike River chairman John Dow said early Saturday it was 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.
Two men have walked out of the West Coast mine, 50km northeast of Greymouth, where the others are trapped at least 1500 metres underground.
Mining is an inherently dangerous business, and the risk of something going wrong is ever-present. It's reassuring to know that they are well trained mine rescue teams waiting to swing into action, but it must be incredibly frustrating to them that they are being held back until the mine is declared safe to enter. There's no point however in putting further lives at risk.
Our thoughts and our prayers go out to everyone involved. We believe in the power of prayer; many of our readers do not. That's fine, but let's save the theological argument for another day. Today nothing is more important than getting the 27 trapped miners back to the surface, and back to their families and friends.
The West Coast is a small and tight-knit community, and this terrible situation is going to be widely felt. The mayor of Greymouth has revealed that one of the trapped men is one of his councillors. In the days that follow, we'll doubtless hear more personal stories, because this is a very personal situation. We hope that the Coasters will be comforted by the thought that many thousands of their fellow Kiwis are with them in spirit; kia kaha; kia maia; kia manawanui; arohanui.
UPDATE: There's a media conference going on right at the moment; more news as soon as it is to hand.