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A tragedy that rocked the Nation

A non-survivable second explosion in the Pike River Mine 50km northwest of Greymouth shattered the hope of a miracle rescuing the 29 lives trapped 2 km inside the Mine.

Russell Smith and Daniel Rockhouse, the only two survivors of the first explosion that occurred at 330 pm on November 19 had said that three of their mates were just behind them, but did not come out.

While Greymouth District Councillor Milton Osborne (a mine contractor) was among those trapped and Joseph Dunbar, who started his dream job on that fateful day, was the youngest. He had celebrated his 17th birthday just two days earlier.

As days rolled on, the close-knit Grey-mouth community waited with the rest of the Nation and the world, hoping that the rescue teams would be able to bring out the trapped miners. But the second explosion destroyed their hope. The Nation mourned, with the New Zealand flag in half-mast. We prayed for the 29 unfortunate miners who had lost their lives somewhere in the 2.5 km long, 1200 degree Celsius, dark and stuffy tunnel of the Pike River mine.

As an early reporter said, the site bore signs of a massive explosion, with rising smoke. Battens had been blown from the vent, a nearby shed was demolished and the surrounding bush ripped and blackened. A rancid smell of burning smoke sulphur was rising.

A third explosion occurred at 239 pm on November 26, just before I filed this report. No one seemed frightened, although many were reminded of the aftershocks of the Christchurch earthquake two months ago.

Dr George Abraham, our Christchurch based Correspondent visited Greymouth regularly to speak to officials and members of the families of the trapped miners. His detailed report with pictures appears on Page 10 of print edition.

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