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Drilling Starts In N. Zealand Mine Rescue
Sunday, 21-Nov-2010 8:24AM United Press International
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CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand, Nov. 21 (UPI) -- Rescuers in New Zealand Sunday began drilling an exploratory hole where 29 men have been trapped since Friday by an explosion in a gas-filled coal mine.

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Police Superintendent Gary Knowles told reporters levels of explosive methane gas dictated extreme caution in drilling to avoid causing a spark, The New Zealand Herald said.

Rescuers planned to bore a 6-inch wide hole 500 feet through rock to test air samples and possibly establish communications with the men at the Pike River mine outside Christchurch, the BBC said.

There has been no contact with the men since the blast and officials said Sunday it could take as long as 24 hours to complete the drilling.

Sunday morning, the mine arranged for buses to take family members of the missing men to the site, the Herald said.

Rescue officials said in addition to the fear of methane gas, carbon monoxide levels were likely high in the mine. Each miner had a 30-minute emergency oxygen supply, sufficient to reach emergency stations where further supplies are stored, the reports said. There are also water supplies in the stations, but no food.

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