New Zealand mine explosion leaves 29 trapped underground

New Zealand coal mine

The New Zealand coal mine has left 29 trapped, and it isn't known whether they're alive. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

A New Zealand mine explosion that occurred days ago has trapped 29 men underground. After two men were able to walk out relatively unscathed, a rescue operation has begun. However, it isn’t known whether the men in Pike River mine are still alive.

New Zealand mine explosion

On Friday, Nov. 12, an explosion occurred at the Pike River mine in New Zealand. The mine is in the West Coast region of New Zealand, to the northeast of Christchurch. How many men were trapped or hurt wasn’t immediately established, but initially it was believed to have been at least 27 men in a particular section of the mine. Later, two men walked out of the mine; they had been working in a different section than those trapped, according to the BBC. Three more were said to have walked out of the mine, but they weren’t located. Over the weekend, it was determined that at least two other men weren’t accounted for, and the number of trapped miners was raised to 29. A rescue operation has begun.

Half hour air supply

The problem, much like the one Chilean miners faced months ago, is getting to the emergency shelter and establishing communication. Miners are equipped with an emergency supply of oxygen that lasts about 30 minutes, according to The Telegraph. The emergency supply provides enough oxygen for miners to get to emergency stations with oxygen stores for a few days. The mining company’s chief executive, Peter Whitall, says the mineshaft is more than two kilometers (about 1.5 miles) deep, but the men typically operate at about 120 meters, or about 400 feet. There is no communication with them yet, so it isn’t known whether they are alive or dead. There are Britons and Australians among the trapped with the New Zealanders.

Fire damp

The danger in the coal mine is a methane gas called fire damp. Fire damp, and similar gases produced by coal mining, are explosive and can cause extraordinary damage and loss of life. It isn’t known whether fire damp caused the explosion, but if it is present, rescue operations will be risky.




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