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Miners presumed dead after second explosion

All 29 miners trapped in a New Zealand mine after an explosion are presumed dead after a second blast occurred, rescuers said.

The workers – who include two Britons – could not have survived the “horrific” second explosion and rescue teams were “now in recovery mode”, police said.

Pete Rodger, 40, from Perthshire, and Malcolm Campbell, 25, from St Andrews, Fife, were among the men missing following Friday’s initial blast at Pike River mine in Atarau on South Island.

Superintendent Gary Knowles said: “Today there was another massive explosion underground and based on that explosion no-one would have survived. We are now in recovery mode.”

Rescue teams had been unable to go into the mine after Friday’s first blast because of high levels of toxic gases.

Rescuers used a diamond-tipped drill to bore through layers of hard rock to get closer to tunnels where some of the miners were thought to be trapped.

The missing men, aged 17 to 62, carried 30 minutes of oxygen, and more fresh air was stored in the mine, along with food and water.

Officials said that provisions allowed for several days of survival.

Pike River has operated since 2008, mining a seam with 58.5M.t of coal, the largest-known deposit of hard coking coal in New Zealand, according to its website.

The mine is not far from the site of one of New Zealand’s worst mining disasters – an underground explosion in the state-owned Strongman Mine on 19 January 1967, which killed 19 workers.

The country’s worst disaster was in 1896, when 65 died in a gas explosion which also occurred in the same Pike River coal seam.

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