Flames at Pike River Mine Shaft No Longer Visible, New Zealand Police Say

Workers have extinguished flames from the vent shaft of New Zealand’s Pike River coal mine where 29 men were presumed killed last month while an underground fire continues to prevent a recovery of bodies, police said.

While conditions in the West Coast mine are still too dangerous for teams to enter, exterior flames are no longer visible and temperatures around its vent are cooling, according to an e-mailed statement today. Gas readings are also displaying some positive signs, with some areas showing as inert.

Teams have been unable to enter the mine, near Greymouth in the country’s South Island, since an explosion on Nov. 19 trapped the men and released toxic gases. Police declared the miners, aged from 17 to 62, to be dead five days later after a second explosion ended all hopes of a rescue. Workers are now trying to douse a coal fire caused by a fourth blast.

“Safety remains paramount and we can’t just put the fire out and rush in there,” Superintendent Gary Knowles said in the statement. Entry to the mine is “a long way off,” according to the statement.

The Pike River recovery operation is likely to take “weeks, if not months,” Knowles said in the statement.

To contact the reporters on this story: Chris Bourke in Wellington at cbourke4@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Iain Wilson at iwilson2@bloomberg.net

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