10,000 mourn blast-death miners


People attend a remembrance service in Greymouth, New Zealand (NZPA)

More than 10,000 mourners have attended a national remembrance service in New Zealand for the 29 coal miners killed in an explosion at the Pike River mine.

A line of 29 black-draped tables each bore a fallen miner’s helmet, lamp and name.

Pike River mine was rocked by an explosion last month, trapping the men, including Britons Peter Rodger, 40, from Perthshire and Malcolm Campbell, 25, from St Andrews in Fife.

A second major blast five days later dashed hopes any of the workers had survived. The men’s bodies have still not been recovered.

Two more explosions have occurred since, including one on Sunday that shot flames into the air, signalling a raging underground coal fire that continues to burn.

The sombre, open-air service was held under a sunny sky at Greymouth’s Omoto Racecourse on South Island.

People across New Zealand paused for a two minute silence before the service. Flags flew at half mast on government buildings nationwide.

Victims’ families placed photos, tributes and personal items – including clothing, a rugby ball, surfboards, a guitar and a cricket bat – alongside the miners’ helmets on the tables. Men, women and children, many weeping, filed quietly past the tables to pay their respects.

“In a very real sense, those men are with us because of those tables,” Rev Tim Mora, who led the service, told the silent crowd.

Prime Minister John Key said the nation’s four million people were standing behind the region’s tight-knit community. “We hoped … they’d emerge from the depths of the Earth,” he told the mourners. “But they never came home.”

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