Poisonous gases and smouldering heat are still preventing rescuers in New Zealand from trying to reach 29 men trapped in a coal mine after an explosion.
They say dangerous levels of methane and carbon monoxide, which could be coming from a coal fire deep underground, mean the threat of a second blast is too great.
A new shaft is being drilled into the mine to allow tests on the gases to take place.
“Overnight we did our last dip sample at 8pm, and as a result of that sample we still think it’s not safe to put people underground to effect a rescue,” said the operation controller, police superintendent Gary Knowles. “We are still focussing on a rescue operation. I would like to get underground and bring these guys out. We’re working with the mine company very closely and looking at all the options.”
The miners’ families are being cared for at a Red Cross centre in the nearby town of Greymouth, where churches were packed on Sunday. Two members of each family were taken by bus to the coal mine – out of bounds to journalists – where they met rescue teams during a two-hour visit.
The mine’s director said it was a harrowing moment for them to see the parked cars of their missing relatives.
No contact has been made with the men since Friday’s explosion.