Fourth mine explosion sparks coal fire

Police have held a press conference tonight to speak about today’s explosion at the Pike River mine.

Inspector Mark Harrison, who is leading the team attempting to recover the bodies of the 29 miners, has confirmed that with each explosion it becomes less and less likely that those bodies will be recovered intact.

Today’s gas explosion has sparked a coal fire, which will cause further complications for the recovery team.

Inspector Harrison says if the fire is burning in processed coal, it will be less intense and easier to bring under control, but if the fire is at the seam, it will be a concern and may take a long time to be doused – if it can.

“Given that there is a significant coal fire burning in the mine, all our options for recovery are being re-evaluated. We need sufficient expert advice from the mine operators and managers to be able to determine how this will impact on our operation,” says Inspector Harrison.

A GAG which has been flown over from Australia to help prevent explosions in the mine has not started operating yet but is expected to begin to be used tomorrow.

Another option for the recovery team is to seal off the mine.

Today’s explosion has completely blown off the ventilation shaft, which has left a cleaner hole in the ground which may make the mine easier to seal.

Pike River Coal CEO Peter Whittal says that flames could be seen emerging from the shaft during the explosion and that it looked like a “bunsen burner”.

However he did not tell the families this information at tonight’s briefing as it was “too graphic”.

The families are growing increasingly concerned that they will not have the bodies of their loved ones back before Christmas, and Mr Whittal has said he cannot promise this will happen.

The latest events may push the recovery back several weeks or months.


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