Fate of the New Zealand miners is still unknown

Potentially dangerous gases hinder the rescue operation

John Key, New Zealand's premier, stated that there is "every chance" that the trapped miners are alive after Friday's gas explosion. However, he has told people to prepare for "possible loss of life".

The inconclusive nature of Key's statement reflects the atmosphere of general uncertainty surrounding the situation. Barely anything is known of what happened to the miners; rescuers are currently unable to take action because of the possibility of dangerous gases in the mine. Thus far, gas samples taken from the mine's main ventilation shaft have shown high levels of carbon-dioxide, which makes it unsafe for rescue crews to enter the mine.

A 6 inch bore-hole has been dug to check the gas levels and for any signs of life, and a military robot is to be sent down into the area in which the miners are said to be trapped.

Despite this uncertainly, there are grounds for optimism, stated the Prime Minister.

"The advice I have is that there is oxygen in the mine and there is every chance that those miners have managed to get to a pocket of that oxygen flow and therefore that they are alive," he said.

The names of the miners have also been announced. The youngest, 17-year-old Joseph Dunbar was on his first shift; whereas the oldest, Keith Valli is 62.

Friends and family of the miners remain in a state of limbo. A statement by the Greymouth town mayor, Tony Kokshoorn, reflected the agony of the situation for the town's residents: "Every hour and every day that goes by we have to face the facts that they can't stay down there indefinitely."