Fire decreasing inside Pike River Coal mine

The fire at the Pike River Coal mine, where 29 men perished last month, appears to be going out, according the CEO Peter Whittall.

He told Radio New Zealand that the GAG (Gorniczy Agregat Gasniczy) jet, sent by the Queensland Mine Rescue Service (QMRS) has decreased the flames coming from the mine’s ventilation shaft.

Temperatures on a concrete pad being cooled to allow for recovery crews to enter safely are currently at 100 degrees Celsius, but they need to be lowered to 65C before they can go in.

A police spokeswoman says the mine still remained “too hot and dangerous” for crews to enter, but they hope to enter as soon as possible.

Despite the delays in the rescue and the calls from unions for CEO Peter Whittall to be held more responsible for the incident, families of victims say they do not want to blame him.

“They didn’t know this would happen,” says Greymouth resident Rachel Coleman.

“I see no reason to blame Peter Whittall.”

She said “playing the blame game” would not bring back her brother, Blair Sims.

Brenda Rackley, the partner of John Hale, a contractor who died in the mine agreed that it was too soon to speculate and blame Whittall.

"We don’t know what happened down there, maybe someone lit a cigarette … He [Whittall] has done a great job so far.

"I can’t direct my anger at anyone yet."

She also said she doesn’t want to follow in some families’ footsteps by getting lawyers involved because it would just “drag it out”.

Last week, lawyer Grant Cameron said families had approached him about the disaster, with concerns that police prevented a rescue operation after the initial explosion.

At a memorial service for the miners yesterday, Ngai Tahu’s Sir Tipene O’Regan said the community shouldn’t have an “eye-for-an-eye” attitude about the tragedy.

"Let us do it like adults, rather than like a bunch of braying hounds.

"Let us find the answers as carefully as we can, if there are answers, and let us move on."

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