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A South Island tragedy gets the world together

“Bring my child home to bury him,” Pip Timms screamed.

She was among the family members who yesterday watched the Mine video footage of the blast on Friday (November 19), bursting through the mine entrance.

As an Indian Newslink reporter, I was among hundreds of media persons from around the world watching the footage last night.

The power of the explosion, which sent coal dust shooting through a length of 2.3 km mine tunnel for 52 seconds, confirmed Pip Timms’ gut feeling that her 17-year-old son, born and raised in Christchurch could not have survived.

“I just wanted to see if we can bring him out; bring him home to bury him. I know, I probably should not say that but, I have accepted that”, she said, weeping like a child. No one could console her, but almost everyone hugged that grieving mother.

The video footage was quite shocking. It showed the explosion that happened in the far deep tunnel. The dust shot out two miners as if it was airgun barrel and the remaining 29 miners could have been on either side of the explosion.

It was Joseph’s first day in the mine and he was posted at the far end of the shaft face with senior miners. The nature of the tragedy does not allow Ms Timms to be optimistic.
Lawrie Drew, whose 21-year-old son Zen is among the missing men, said, the mine video footage was hard to watch.

“You could have heard a pin-drop in there. It showed just how explosive that was, considering that shaft is 2.3 km long,” he said.

“I really want my boy back, but I know that are against such a hope. But I am not conceding anything against hope,” he said.

Grey District Mayor Tony Kokshoorn, whose fellow Councillor is also under the earth was still “hoping for a miracle.”

“We have families there hoping for a miracle and until someone shows us a body..” he said, unable to complete the sentence.

Pike River Chief Executive Peter Whittal said the footage was “a strong symbol” and “very sobering”. It was captured by the same camera that filmed the men arriving for their shift early on November 19.

Jo Smith’s husband Russell, who escaped, is almost feeling guilty, while the fate of his colleagues was still unknown.

Gary Knowles, leader of the Rescue operation said, “We must be aware that the likelihood of life is diminishing and we have to be frank about the situation.”

”It is bleak, it is grave and you have to understand that the risk posed by a secondary explosion is real,” he said.

Police Minister Judith Collins said, “The decision has been made; we cannot risk the Rescue crew in this way, and for those who might be alive as well.”

Dehydration would be the biggest threat for the trapped miners if they are alive as they headed into their sixth day trapped underground. It is always hot there, even without the heat of the mine.

Though there was fresh water supply in the mine, there was no food. They took their lunch hoping to return for dinner with their family. Heat exhaustion could cause muscle ache and pain, part from harming their lungs.

Inside the mine, coal could still be burning, releasing a cocktail of gases including methane and carbon monoxide, which could keep the inner mine explosion indefinitely.

Dr George Abraham is our Correspondent based in Christchurch. He visited Grey Mouth to file this report.

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