At least 30 miners are unaccounted for, after an explosion ripped through a coal mine in New Zealand on Friday. Rescue teams including fire crews and helicopters have been pressed in and reports of casualties are emerging on the local media. Police are yet to confirm the reports but updated that two people have surfaced from the mine since the explosion.
Authorities' also fear that the air supply might have been cut off and communication with the underground has been lost. Rescue teams are still assessing the safety conditions and yet to enter the mine.
Meanwhile, families of the miners are gathering outside the Pike River Coal Processing Plant near the town of Atarau on the West Coast where the explosion has been reported. The miners were on their afternoon shift and were accompanied by five other staff from the management.
The men are between two and two-and-a-half kilometers inside, but because the mine drills into the side of the mountain they are probably only 120 below the surface, Pike River chief executive Peter Whittall told the New Zealand Herald.
He added that the two miners who have emerged out of the mine after the explosion are being treated for moderate injuries. The CEO also maintained that adequate emergency exit tunnels in the mine and safety gear for all the workers have been provided.
The extremely isolated mine holds the largest-known deposit of hard coking coal in New Zealand. It runs six kilo meters north-south and one-and-a-half kilometers east-west. Operating since 2008, the production of the mine is estimated at 58.5 million tons of coal and valued at over $2 billion. Two Indian companies Gujarat NRE Coke Ltd and Saurashtra Fuels Private Ltd also hold a stake in the mine.