High Gas Levels Thwart NZ Miner Rescue
But officials confident missing 29 still alive
By Polly Davis Doig,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 20, 2010 6:39 AM CST
CEO of Pike River Coal Peter Whitall , during a press conference, in Greymouth, New Zealand, Saturday, Nov. 20, 2010.   (ROSS SETFORD)
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(Newser) – Twenty-nine New Zealand miners remained stuck more than a mile underground today as high methane and carbon monoxide levels prevented rescuers from retrieving them. "Unfortunately it's just not as simple as putting on a mask and gown and rushing in there," says one official. "It does pose a danger to those guys underground and ... a danger to the staff going in."

The official said rescuers were confident the 29 had survived Friday's blast: "This is a search and rescue operation, and we are going to bring these guys home," he said. And the AP notes that air is flowing through a compressed air line, though a phone at the bottom of the mine had rung unanswered. "It is quite conceivable there is a large number of men sitting around the end of that open pipe waiting and wondering why we are taking our time getting to them," said the official.