GREYMOUTH, New Zealand — Toxic gases after Friday’s coal mine explosion prevented rescuers from entering the Pike River Mine to search for 29 missing men yesterday, and evidence of heat underground raised fears that another blast was possible.
Rescue officials prepared to send a high-tech robot into a mine tunnel today to transmit pictures and assess toxic gas levels. The New Zealand defense department upgraded the robot so it would not create a spark and ignite a fresh explosion.
Also yesterday, water flooded a small coal mine in Sichuan Province, China, trapping 29 people as they performed safety work to expand the mine’s capacity, state media said. Five were lifted to safety, the media reported. Forty-one workers were underground at the Batian mine in the southwestern province when it flooded. It was not clear what caused the flooding.
In New Zealand, fresh air was being pumped down an open air line, but gas levels were still fluctuating so much that waiting rescue teams were forbidden to enter the mine near Atarau on South Island.
A 6-inch-wide hole was being drilled from the mountain above down 500 feet to the mine to assess air quality and to lower listening devices. The missing miners have not been heard from since the blast, but officials said the search for them is a rescue operation. The drill was expected to reach the mine wall overnight.