According to a statement from the police commander helping with the rescue efforts, there was a secondary explosion underground. His statement was that this explosion killed the remaining miners. “We are now going into recovery mode,” said Gary Knowles, superintendent of Tasman Police Command.
The second explosion happened on Wednesday afternoon. Knowles told reporters that he was at the mine when it happened.
A national tragedy
New Zealand’s Prime Minister, John Key, held a news conference on Wednesday. He said he had been hoping for a miracle. However, since the second explosion, he said it look as if the incident is a “national tragedy.” He then extended his condolences to the families of the miners.
Rescue efforts had been hampered from the start due to high levels of toxic gas. Earlier in the week venting holes had been drilled into the mine and high levels of carbon monoxide and methane were detected. The rescuers found very little oxygen, furthering the thought that the trapped miners were deceased.
There are 29 miners still trapped. When the initial explosion happened two miners did manage to escape. The trapped miners are between the ages of 17 and 62. Most of the miners are New Zealanders but there are also a few from Scotland and South Africa.
Rescuers had sent small robots with cameras attached down into the mine. They found a miner’s helmet with the light on, at one point, but no miner. It was thought the helmet had been dropped by one of the surviving miners. When the robot reached one of the oxygen “air bases” used in emergencies, they found the area empty.
Authorities showed family members a closed circuit video of the initial explosion from the mine’s entrance. The video was only a minute long and showed dust and debris flying out of the tunnel. The explosion, according to those who saw it, was large and devastating.
As of right now the levels of gas in the mine are still so high and so potentially explosive that no one will be allowed in to try and recover any bodies.