Trapped Miners: Police Find Helmet

Police searching for trapped miners in New Zealand have discovered one of their helmets with its light still on.

But they say the collapsed mine remains too dangerous to send rescuers inside – and hopes are diminishing that all the men, who include two Britons, will be found alive.

Relatives of the miners have been warned that the outlook for the men was looking “bleaker by the hour, by the day”.

Pike River mine chief executive Peter Whittall and the commander of the district’s police force, superintendent Gary Knowles, have been quizzed at press conference about why the rescue effort is not happening faster.

The start of any rescue operation has been delayed at the site – in a remote area of the country’s South Island – as tests continue to show a build-up of toxic gases.

Mr Whittall told reporters: “It’s a matter of the mine exploding again while they (rescuers) are in there.”

Fears for the trapped men’s safety were further raised after Mr Knowles said underground toxic gas samples were still “off the limit”.

He said: “The environment is still unstable, it is unsafe and it is not appropriate to send rescue teams underground at this time.”

He said that while he could understand the frustrations of families waiting to hear news of their loved wones, “obviously with the passage of time, hope does diminish”.

“Whilst we remain optimistic, we are focusing on going underground to effect a recovery, to effect a rescue, and do what we awere trained to do,” he added.

Mr Knowles said it was still not clear where exactly the miners are – and said reports suggesting only four miners may have been in a location where they could have survived were distressing for families.

There has been no communication with the trapped miners since Friday’s blast.

It has emerged a robot which broke down during the rescue attempt was fixed and has been able to capture footage from about 1km beneath the surface, which is being reviewed.

A second robot is also making its way deep underground, and a third machine is set to be used.

Mr Whittall said the problem with toxic gas, among other factors, were making it more difficult for families “to hold out that hope that all 29 of those guys are waiting for us, as we hoped on day one”.

He said: “I certainly hope that my guys are waiting down there, I certainly hope I get to see them again, and I certainly hope that as many of them that can be got out will be got out safely and well.”

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