This weekend the media’s attention has been captured by the plight of families involved in a mining disaster in New Zealand. On Friday a blast forced part of the mine to collapse, trapping twenty-nine miners about one-hundred and fifty meters below the ground. Rescue efforts have been hampered by a build up of explosive gasses, which are too dangerous to disturb. The last thing anyone wants is a second explosion Today it is hoped that drilling will begin so that a rescue shaft can be made.

As yet, no-one is certain that the men are alive, although the chances are favourable. The anxious wait for news is a reminder of another mining disaster – that of the San Jose mine is Chile – where the men were trapped for two months. However, the authorities are being quick to remind people that this situation is different. The mine in this case is bored sideways into a hill, rather than downwards, and therefore a rescue shaft will be quicker and safer to drill. This is good news, as the men have no food and were only carrying a bottle of water each. Oxygen is being pumped into the mine in a bid to maintain a steady level of fresh air.

While rescuers continue to assess the site’s safety, families gather and wait. No one knows how long it could take to complete a rescue.

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