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Sad - Tactical Ninja

Nov. 25th, 2010

08:58 am - Sad

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Today, the flag on the Beehive is flying at half mast in honour of the Pike River mine disaster victims.



I find myself wondering how many people reading this are going "Pike River what?" I know Kiwis will be familiar with it but I often wonder how much of our news reaches the rest of the world. So for those of you who don't know, I'm going to talk about it. Kiwis, feel free to skip.


That didn't happen here.

The mine in Chile was a rock (copper/gold) mine and it suffered from a cave-in, trapping miners but otherwise not endangering them. Pike River is a coal mine with associated natural gas hazards, and it was a gas explosion which may have killed or trapped miners, and then proceeded to fill the mine with toxic and volatile gases.

This explosion happened last Friday afternoon. Shortly afterwards, two men walked out of the mine, leaving 29 people trapped inside. Nobody knew whether they were alive or dead and calls to emergency phones within the mine went unanswered. Rescue efforts have been stymied by dangerous levels of gas within the mine and fear of another explosion. Robots were sent in but ran out of batteries before reaching anywhere useful. A specialist robot was sent from Australia but there was fear it would not be able to get around an abandoned loader left in there by one of the men who survived, and the loader would have to be moved by people for exploration to proceed. Throughout this time, there was no contact with anyone inside the mine to determine if anyone survived, and hope dwindled.

Yesterday, drilling into the area of the mine where the men were believed to be finally broke through. This allowed more precise measurement of gas levels and was the first real breakthrough in terms of maybe sending in a rescue team.

Shortly after this there was a second, larger explosion. All 29 men are now presumed dead and the rescue mission has turned to a recovery one.

Here's something from the BBC website explaining the main differences between this and Chile.

Of course the biggest difference is that in Chile, everyone lived. Here, everyone died. The oldest was 62, the youngest, 17.

Of course, questions will be asked. Why was it possible for gas to build up to explosive levels? Where were the safety measures that are supposed to prevent this? They used to keep canaries in mines for this purpose, but that practice stopped last century. There will be enquiries and committees and changes, no doubt, to health and safety regulations.

But right now, New Zealand is in shock and the main focus is to try and recover the bodies of the miners.

For some reason this is affecting me more than Anita's death. Ostensibly, I knew her better - she was my people even though I wasn't her close friend. Her death I felt mostly through its effect on those I care about, but I can't - and feel free to berate me for this - feel bad about her decision, which I see as a valid one in the circumstances she was facing and not all that different from my mother choosing to stop fighting in the circumstances she was facing, you know?

But these miners did not choose to die, and for some reason I'm plagued by the thought of what their last moments must have been like. I have a tremendous fear of being underground even though earth is my element. My gut tells me that people do not belong there, and they were there, and now they are dead. And it all seems so unnecessary.


I haven't even started to process what happened in Cambodia yet.

I know that tomorrow is Thanksgiving in the US. Please, while you're hanging out with your families with all the joy and drama that goes with that, spare a thought for the families of the Pike River miners and the people in Cambodia, and be thankful you still have yours.

Comments:

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From:missprune
Date:November 24th, 2010 08:03 pm (UTC)
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Yes, this has been news in the US. So very sad...
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From:anna_en_route
Date:November 24th, 2010 09:06 pm (UTC)
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Just really horrible all round.
Worse because this is going to devastate an entire community for years and years to come.
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From:phaetonschariot
Date:November 25th, 2010 08:19 pm (UTC)
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Yeah, and the West Coast isn't exactly the most stable economy to start with, even aside from the emotional/morale trauma of losing so many people like this in what's quite a small community. It's basically tourism and mining. Fundraising efforts have already started and various companies etc have donated six or seven figure sums but you need more than money to get a community back on its feet after something like that.
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From:tatjna
Date:November 25th, 2010 08:21 pm (UTC)
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One of the things that's been on my mind is the other employees at the mine - even if it reopens after the bodies are removed, that could take months and meanwhile there's no work there for those people. I really hope the company doesn't forget them.
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From:phaetonschariot
Date:November 25th, 2010 08:25 pm (UTC)
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I have heard talk about them so I don't think they will. There's about a hundred and ten of them. Chances are a lot of them are sole or major wage-earners in their families, too...
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From:rivet
Date:November 24th, 2010 09:56 pm (UTC)
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Thank you for that. As far as I can tell, I now know more about it than the people I walked to work behind. That didn't stop them from having strong opinions, mind....

Cambodia? That situation makes me shudder.
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From:opheliastorn
Date:November 24th, 2010 09:59 pm (UTC)
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I am caught between grief for the miners and their families and communities, and anger at the attitudes of the reporters during press conferences before and after the second explosion. Every part of it hurts.
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From:ferrouswheel
Date:November 25th, 2010 02:31 am (UTC)
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My Uni friends got married in Greymouth (not the ones I met with for dinner last night though). Apparently a couple of the people at the wedding had relatives (one a brother) in the mine when the first explosion happened... :-(

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From:clashfan
Date:November 25th, 2010 03:06 pm (UTC)
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There was a feature interview with the mother of the 17-year-old boy. It wasn't even his first day of work, it was meant to be a 'paperwork and tour the facility' day. He was so proud to have a job and a direction in life, according to his mum.
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