Hopes are fading over the fate of 29 miners including two Britons caught up in an underground blast at a New Zealand coal mine, police said.
Superintendent Gary Knowles told a press conference that it still remained too dangerous to send rescue teams into the damaged pit, more than three days after the explosion at the Pike River mine in Atarau on South Island.
He added that authorities were planning for “all possible outcomes”, adding: “This is a serious operation and the longer it goes on, hope fades and we have to be realistic.”
Pete Rodger, 40, from Perthshire, and Malcolm Campbell, 25, from St Andrews, Fife, are among the group of 29 miners missing following Friday’s blast.
It is believed that a build-up of methane caused the accident. The ongoing presence of high levels of the gas has so far thwarted attempts to send in rescue workers.
Supt Knowles said: “Experts still tell us that the level of toxicity in air and ground are still too unstable to send rescue teams in.”
He added that safety was “paramount” and that people would not descend into the damaged mine until safety was ensured.
In a further blow, a remote-controlled robot sent into the mine has broken down, it emerged today.