Specialist gas testing equipment has been flown in from Australia this morning to help with the rescue operation at the Pike River coal mine between Greymouth and Reefton where 29 men remain trapped underground.
Superintendent Gary Knowles, Tasman Police District Commander, and Mr Peter Whittall, Pike River Coal's chief executive officer, met with a large group of families of the trapped miners and contractors in Greymouth this morning.
"This is an extremely worrying time for the families and friends as they await news from their loved ones," Superintendent Knowles said. "They are naturally stressed and anxious. Police and mine officials are working closely with other emergency services, welfare support agencies and other organisations to do everything we can to bring these men home and to give the families the support they need. We want to bring these guys home."
"The West Coast is a tight knit community and everyone has some link to the mines, the staff and other contractors who work at the site. Police and Pike River staff will continue to provide regular updates to families for as long as this rescue operation takes."
Air quality safety concerns have so far prevented access into the tunnel mine which has been driven up into the hillside - unlike the Chilean mine which was a shaft mine. Once conditions are declared safe and stable then specialist rescuers will enter the mine. Fresh air is being pumped into the mine in the hope that it will reach the men.
Police can confirm 29 men aged between 17 and 62 years are trapped in the mine. They are 16 Pike River employees and 13 contractors. Most are New Zealanders but there are some Australian and British nationals.
Further updates will be made when they become available.
The next media conference will be at 2pm at the Greymouth Police Station.
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