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New Zealand mine survivor:"I couldn't breathe"

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New Zealand mine survivor:"I couldn't breathe"


Hopes of a renewed effort to try to reach 29 miners trapped underground in New Zealand have been frustrated by more delays.

Rescuers have been unable to enter because gas and smouldering heat mean the risk of another explosion is too high.

No contact has been made with the men since the first blast on Friday.

A new shaft is being drilled into the River Pike coal mine on the country’s South Island, to allow tests on the gases to take place.

One of the miners who survived the explosion has been describing his experience.

Russell Smith works as a cutter at the coalface. On Friday he was an hour late for work and, he believes, it saved his life.

He was driving a loader down the tunnel when the blast happened, knocking him unconscious.

“I remember struggling for breath. I thought at the time it was gas, but I’ve been told since it was dust and stone dust, and I just couldn’t breathe,” he said. “And that’s the last I could remember. And then when someone found me about 15 minutes or so later, I was about 15 metres from the vehicle. I thought I must have climbed out, but they’re under the impression I got blown out, by the look of me.”

The miners’ families are being cared for at a Red Cross centre in the nearby town of Greymouth, where churches were packed on Sunday.

Some family members were taken to the mine where they met rescue teams during an emotional two-hour visit.

Despite another harrowing wait for the miners’ relatives, the authorities say they’re optimistic the men may be found alive.

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