NZ holds me­mo­rial ser­vice for 29 dead coal min­ers

The Pak Banker - - 6international -

WELLING­TON: New Zealand held a na­tional re­mem­brance ser­vice Thurs­day for coal min­ers killed in an ex­plo­sion last month, with a line of 29 black-draped ta­bles each bear­ing a fallen miner's hel­met, lamp and name.

Pike River mine was rocked by an ex­plo­sion Nov. 19, trap­ping the 29 min­ers. 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 Sun­day that shot flames into the air, sig­nal­ing a rag­ing un­der­ground coal fire that con­tin­ues to burn. More than 10,000 mourn­ers at­tended the somber, open-air ser­vice 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 staff 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.

Griev­ing fa­ther Lawrie Drew said he would not feel a sense of clo­sure un­til his son Zen's body was re­cov­ered. "It's not clo­sure for me. Not un­til I see the body," he told the Stuff news web­site ahead of the ser­vice. Prime Min­is­ter John Key said the nation's 4 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."

Re­cov­ery teams started a jet en­gine known as the "gag" ma­chine overnight Wed­nes­day, blow­ing in­ert gases and wa­ter va­por into the burn­ing mine to quench the fire rag­ing since Sun­day. -Ap

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