November 26th, 2010
By now you've probably all heard about the Pike River Mine disaster. I wanted to mention it, because it has been affecting our lives here recently, but I didn't really want to include it in my post about Thanksgiving, because it's kind of a downer. I'm writing about it briefly here in the hopes that you will hold in your thoughts all the people here in New Zealand and elsewhere whose lives have been turned upside down by the tragedy.
For those who haven't yet heard about it, last Friday there was an explosion in the Pike River Coal Mine near Greymouth, on the west coast of the South Island. Two miners who were near the surface of the mine made it out with minor injuries, but 29 more were trapped in the mine. For almost 6 days, no contact was made with the trapped miners, and rescue teams attempted to check the air quality in the mine to determine if it would be save to go in. Many of the tests were hampered by conditions and by equipment troubles, and the tests that did come back showed that gas levels in the mine were unsafe for rescuers. On Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving, the news came through that there had been a second large explosion in the mine, of a volatility such that no human would have been able to survive it. A test of the air in the mine shortly before the second explosion showed levels of carbon dioxide that were off the charts. The 29 trapped miners have been declared dead, and in all likelihood did not live to see the second explosion, so the small comfort is that they probably just went to sleep, given the carbon dioxide levels inside the mine.
It's been really horrible to watch it all unfold on the news here. I was watching when TVNZ was given the news that all the miners were dead, and watching the anchorwoman relay that news as she was handed it was pretty devastating. It has been a tragedy of a national scale here. I think it was especially hard to take in light of the successful recent rescue of the 33 Chilean miners. I think everyone may have had a lot more optimism after that rescue than they would have otherwise, which made the bad news all the more devastating.
Anyway, I just wanted to put an acknowledgment of the whole thing out there, and hope that you will all take a minute to think of all the miners' families and friends as they try to cope with losing their loved ones, and take a moment to appreciate your own families and friends, as well as the fragility of human life.