New Zealand police have said they remain “optimistic” over the fate of 29 miners including two Scots missing after an explosion in a South Island coal pit.
However they warned that they were “planning for all outcomes” and possible loss of life.
Pete Rodger, 40, from Perthshire, and Malcolm Campbell, 25, from St Andrews, Fife, are missing after a fireball ripped through the Pike River mine in Atarau on South Island.
Rescue teams have still not entered the mine, more than three days after a debris-laden blast tore through the pit’s underground tunnels.
Officials are drilling a 500ft hole from the mountain above the mine to assess air quality and to lower listening devices. A hi-tech robot was also being prepared to be sent into the mine to transmit pictures and take more measurements.
Police said there was still too much combustible and noxious gas present for rescuers to enter safely, despite fresh air being pumped down the mine through an open air line.
Mr Campbell’s father, Malcolm senior, 50, and mother Jane, 45, said they were clinging on to the hope of receiving some good news about their son. They told STV News: “We can’t concentrate on anything, we can’t sleep because it’s difficult.”
Mr Campbell is due to marry his fiancee, Amanda Shields, 23, next month. His father told the Mail on Sunday: “Only last month we were watching the Chilean miners being rescued. I remember saying to my wife how awful it would be if it happened to Malcolm and now it has.”
Mr Rodger moved to New Zealand two years ago to be near his mother and sister who emigrated there. His New Zealand-born girlfriend, Dianne Morris, wrote on Facebook: “Just got to keep having positive thoughts.”
Prime Minister David Cameron and Prince William have sent messages of support and Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond told BBC Reporting Scotland: “We are concerned obviously for the fate of all 29 of the miners who are trapped. But the fact that two Scots are among them and two Scottish families have that immediate concern makes that all the more immediate for people across Scotland.”