Authorities in New Zealand say they are still holding out hope of saving 29 men trapped in a coal mine.
Emergency teams now appear to have completed the drilling of a separate ventilation shaft at the Greymouth pit near to where the miners are thought to be.
High levels of toxic gas have hampered the rescue operation, however the next stage will see a robot lowered underground to locate the mens’ position.
Greymouth Mayor Tony Kokshoorn said:“One of the miners who had just been in there 15 minutes previous, he knew exactly where one person’s son was, he pointed out exactly where he was on a map and he said look he is only ten feet away from a ventilation shaft, now providing he survived everything, and got over to the oxygen. We don’t know, he could just be sitting over there waiting, you know.’‘
Despite that optimism Police have acknowledged for the first time they are preparing for a loss of life. The slow pace of the rescue operation has left many relatives angry and frustrated. All they can do is wait and pray.
The father of one of the missing miners said:’‘We have got faith they’re going to come out and they are safe, it is just how long it is going to take to find out for sure what is going on down there.’‘
But with no news from the men those hopes grow dimmer by the hour. The search robot is due to go into the Pike River colliery to check for gas and signs of life.
As well as New Zealanders, the trapped, include two Britons, two Australians and a South African, while two workers were able to stumble out with only minor injuries within hours of Friday’s explosion.