New Zealand: 29 miners tragically die underground

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Italian article written by Eloisa De FeliceEnglish translation by Giuseppe Rana and Nicoletta Pedullà – Revision by Giuseppe Rana

The 29 miners – 24 New Zealanders, 2 British, 2 Australians and 1 South African – trapped in the New Zealand Pike River Coal mine are believed dead. After the first blast, which took place on 19th November, first-aiders were no how able to get in touch with the miners trapped underground. However, the hope to rescue the miners was kept alive for 5 days mainly by a robot sent underground which found a miner’s helmet with the light still on. Regrettably, soon after the finding, the helmet was found out to belong to one of the two miners who had managed to escape the first explosion. Relatives’ and rescue squads’ hope was definitively lost on 24th November, at 14:37, when a second blast took place; anyway, rescuers had repeatedly been prevented from entering the mine due to the presence of poison gases and to the high risk of fires and blasts.

‘It is our belief that have been no survivors’, said Superintendent Gary Knowles to reporters and media during a press conference. Previously, he had gathered miners’ relatives and rescue coordinators in a room to inform them about the dramatic end. After the second explosion, the first- aiders could be able to enter the mine to recover the bodies. ‘We will found our men’ said Peter Whittal, the mine chief executive, who ensured that the company will do all the efforts to recover the 29 bodies.

Last summer, there was the miraculous case of the Chilean miners of Copiapó, in the San Josè mine of the San Esteban Mining Company. They escaped the mine collapse after surviving many days in an underground refuge and then coming up to the surface, thanks to the relentless work of the first-aiders. Now, this new tragedy opens an age-old and thorny situation about safety at work and, above all, on risky workplaces like mines. In the “stomach” of the mine, underground, miners find an honest job to take money home, but they risk not to come back home every single moment of their working day. The only hope lies in human cleverness, in technique and technology: soon, very soon, only robot-miners will go underground; at that moment, many wives and mothers will be sleeping peacefully, without the worry of raising their children alone.



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