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    New Zealand Coal Miners Remain Trapped


    by NTDTelevision

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    Twenty-nine miners remain missing for the fourth day in Pike River coal mine in New Zealand on Monday.

    There has been no contact with the miners since an explosion ripped through the mine on the rugged west coast of New Zealand's South Island on Friday afternoon.

    Rescuers will not enter until the air quality has improved.

    Russell Smith survived the initial explosion. He says he is lucky to be alive.

    [Russell Smith, Miner]:
    "Well, I'm living, I suppose. That's why I'm lucky. Very lucky. I could easily have been blown to bits."

    Smith explained how he came to survive.

    [Russell Smith, Miner]:
    "Because I wasn't as far up, the explosion wasn't as bad for me. It just bowled me over and knocked me unconscious and somebody dragged me about 300 meters, brought me around and then the two of us held each other to get out of the mine."

    Smith spoke about being in a loader and seeing a flash, which was followed by a series of bangs. He was pelted by debris and had his hat and clothes torn off. He remembers struggling for breath amidst the dust.

    [Russell Smith, Miner]:
    "I just couldn't breathe. And that's the last I could remember. And then when someone found me 15 minutes or so later I was about 15 meters from the vehicle. And I thought I must have climbed out, but they were under the impression I got blown out by the look of me."

    Smith got only a graze up over his right eye. He was taken to hospital and later in the same day discharged.

    He said he was not sure whether his colleagues were still alive.

    Frustration among the relatives of the miners continues to rise, as authorities will not send rescue crews into the mine due to high levels of toxic gasses.

    Tests on Saturday indicated the presence of a heat source, which is generating gas, perhaps a fire or coal smoldering.