Rescue teams plan for all eventualities

Rescue teams plan for all eventualities

National News

Specialist skills from throughout New Zealand and overseas are being used to help the rescue effort at the Peak River coal mine near Greymouth where 29 miners have been trapped since Friday night.

Superintendent Gary Knowles, Tasman Police District Commander, said today that all avenues are being explored to get the men out.

"I've met with the families again this morning as I have done and will continue to do regularly every day. They are under enormous strain and are extremely frustrated. I can understand that frustration but they know we have a job to do."

Superintendent Knowles said an NZ Defence Force remote controlled robot was deployed into the mine at 6am today. Two hours later and 500m into the difficult journey the robot broke down and is no longer able to be used. This was hugely disappointing to all those involved.

Discussions were already being held with Australian and US authorities to bring specialist advanced robots to New Zealand. Police are liaising with New Zealand Defence Force on securing either another Defence Force robot in New Zealand and or for help in flying one by Hercules from Australia to Greymouth.

Bore hole drilling continued overnight and it is hoped this breakthrough will happen this afternoon. Risk assessments are being done to place a video camera and listening device in. Drilling had reached 142m by 1000am and the last 20m through hard rock is expected to take another five hours.

"Everyone is working around the clock in this operation. The drillers worked overnight in bush conditions, and one of the staff had to be medically evacuated out to Grey Hospital. We thought he'd broken his ankle but fortunately it is just a bad sprain. That gives an indication of the nature of the conditions they are working in. They're giving everything their best shot."

Fibre optic cable and tubing has arrived and this will be laid along a track cut by gangs into the bush.

"Overnight the gas levels reduce but they continue to fluctuate. Expert advice is that it is still too dangerous and unstable to send teams underground.

"This remains to be a very serious situation and the longer it goes on their hopes fade. We must remain optimistic, but I'm also a realist and we are preparing for a range of eventualities."

"We continue to be guided by expert evidence and will not go in underground until it is safe to do so. As soon as we can then rescue mine teams, boosted by the arrival of additional rescuers from Australia and elsewhere in New Zealand, will go in."

Superintendent Knowles said he was aware of talk that one of the trapped miners, Allan Dixon, had reportedly telephoned his wife from inside the mine soon after the explosion. This local talk was not correct. Police have established that the phone call was in fact made by Mr Dixon's mother to his wife.

Trevor Watts, who heads the New Zealand Mine Rescue Teams, told this morning's news conference that 65 mine rescue specialists are now on site. These people are are highly trained, experienced and equipped to deal with extreme underground situations.

Ends

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