Latest updates: Pike River mine blast

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We bring you the latest updates from the West Coast where 29 miners are trapped inside the Pike River coal mine.

Photos / Herald on Sunday, Mark Mitchell, Supplied
Photos / Herald on Sunday, Mark Mitchell, Supplied

7.38pm: That's the end of our live updates for today - thank you for following along.

We will be back with updates from 7am.

7.22pm: Pike River Coal shares remained in a trading halt at the request of the company, NZPA reported.

The company said it considered it appropriate to focus on assessing the event and rescuing its employees rather than any concern about a lack of information in the market.

7.10pm: The CCTV footage from Pike River is can be viewed here.

Families and friends of the Pike River miners have released details about them. Click here to learn more about them.

Don't forget that if you're on Twitter, you can read tweets related to the Pike River story in the #PikeRiver hashtag stream.

You can follow on Twitter and "like" us on Facebook, and debate the news as it happens.

To read messages of support to the Pike River mining community from New Zealand and around the world, click here.

6.49pm: Pike River CEO Peter Whittall said CCTV footage showed the blast was a "strong symbol" and "was large and went on for a long time."

Mr Whittall also pointed out that footage showed the mine entrance was far away from the blast.

However, he emphasised that two men survived the explosion and that is what gives him hope.

"What's sustaining my hope is the information we've had from day one, that survival of a blast of that nature depends on where you're standing. Daniel was only a couple of metres off the road and not in the direct path and got up," he said.

Mr Whittall also said that compressed air had been pumped into the mine since Friday, though he was unsure if it was circulating through the entire tunnel network.

6.46pm: Pike River CEO Peter Whittall warned the Department of Labour two years ago that its underground mining regulations were inadequate, there were too few mines inspectors, and they had inadequate resources.

In a submission released to NZPA by the department today, Mr Whittall said safety regulations under the Government's coal mining legislation were "inadequate in some critical areas."

"Current mining regulations...are in need of complete review and revision," he said in his 2008 submission.

"We all have 20:20 vision after an event, but very few people generally intend to harm anyone."

6.20pm: "There may not be 29 guys all sitting together waiting to be rescued," Pike River CEO Peter Whittall said, but he continued to have hope because the miners may have been out of the blast's range.

6.14pm: Pike River CEO Peter Whittall said the video was "irrelevant" to the rescue operation but would be informative for the families waiting for news of the miners.

"Not material, but powerful and demonstrative for the families," was how Mr Whittall described it.

"In my view of looking at it - and not looking at it as evidence, that's a police matter - time has coupled with the magnitude of the blast" to make the video relevant.

Mr Whittall said he watched the video so that he could better understand what happened at the mine on Friday and released the video so that the miners' families could get the same understanding.

He said family members were "glad" to see it, but that it did not change the situation for them.

"I still don't think it's material to what's being done on site."

6.09pm: Pike River CEO Peter Whittall explained to media where the CCTV footage of the blast was recorded.

Mr Whittall played the video and pointed out a rag or piece of tape attached to the mine entrance, which he said was used as an indicator of air movement in and out of the mine.

In the moments before the blast, the object hangs limp.

Then a large cloud of stone dust erupts from within the mine and spews out into the open air.

6.07pm Grey District Mayor Tony Kokshoorn said the footage of the explosion, which occurred up to 2.5 kilometres from the outside of the mine, indicated the miners' chances were "not good".

"But there's been a huge amount of not good news too. We have got families there hoping for a miracle and until someone shows us a body we are hoping for a miracle."

6.04pm: Pike River CEO Peter Whittall said the video about to be shown is a "continuous recording" from just before Friday's blast.

Mr Whittall hoped that showing the video would be informative for people who found it difficult for people to understand the concepts of high gas levels and why it's not just about going into the mine with breathing apparatus.

"It was certainly a very strong symbol, a strong piece of information" in terms of demonstrating how powerful the blast was, Mr Whittall said of the video.

6.00pm: Pike River CEO Peter Whittall said drilling into the mine was still underway after hard rock caused problems to the equipment.

It is expected to be completed in two hours, barring difficulties.

Mr Whittall said there had been "variable" gas conditions during the day and an increase in methane underground at the monitoring point had been significant.

A camera had been lowered down a slimline shaft into a fresh air base that would be used by miners in an emergency, Mr Whittall said. The camera showed minor damage and "general disrepair."

Mr Whittall said there was no evidence that anyone had entered that fresh air base since the blast.

5.56pm: Police Minister Judith Collins said that people would soon see how dangerous the situation at Pike River is.

Police Commissioner Howard Broad said the operation was "extremely challenging" for the police even though they were routinely involved in search and rescue operations.

"We take advice from experts," he said.

"The situation is too dangerous to allow people to go into the mine."

"The situation for those who are below ground is bleak and it gets bleaker by the hour, by the day," he said.

Mr Broad said "there is nothing that the New Zealand police has" that is not available to Mr Knowles, who is the commander of Operation Pike.

He said expertise from around the world was available to the people on the ground at Pike River.

5.54pm: Operation Pike commander Gary Knowles says significant resources have been moved to the mine in the last 24 hours.

Mr Knowles said negotiations were still underway to get robots from Australia and the United States.

He said the frustration felt by the miners' families over the prolonged risk assessment was shared by all involved, and repeated his earlier warnings about a secondary explosion being possible if rescuers moved into the mine too early.

"The situation is bleak. It is grave. You have to understand that the risk posed by a secondary explosion is huge."

5.53pm: Officials have asked for "appropriate editorial caution" over use of the video of the Pike River mine blast, due to be released shortly.

5.45pm: At this afternoon's briefing, family members of the Pike River miners were told that the drilling was 10 metres away from being completed.

5.35pm: Lawrie Drew, father of Pike River miner Zen Drew, said footage of the blast was difficult to watch but was "informative and enlightening".

He said that there not much more information was forthcoming.

"We just have to wait until the morning and hold our breath," he said.

5.28pm: Families have viewed footage of the Pike River mine blast at the Grey District Council offices this afternoon.

They remained composed as the video was played to them.

5.23pm: Greymouth Holy Trinity Church will hold a prayer service tonight for the 29 trapped miners, reports TVNZ.

Archdeacon Robin Kingston says the church is not focusing on dealing with grief because there is still hope for the men in the mine.

5.22pm: A source has told the Herald that footage of the Pike River mine explosion was enough to move some of those who have seen it to tears.

The video has been said to show either smoke or gaseous fumes rolling down the tunnel.

5:15pm A former Pike River Coal miner believes methane gas at the mine made him ill.

His symptoms included dizziness, high temperature and disorientation," the man, who asked not to be identified, told the The News of Westport.

The ex-miner said the symptoms, which he had never experienced before, began about a month after he had started work at the mine.

He had had "blood tests, x-rays, everything", which had proved inconclusive.

"The doctor is still making further inquiries in Christchurch."

After three weeks sick leave he decided to quit the mine. He now has another job and says his health has improved, he said.

4.33pm: This map details the Pike River mine and where officials believe the 29 men may be trapped within.

4.19pm: Officials may release a video of the Pike River mine blast at this afternoon's press conference which has been scheduled for 5.30pm.

The Herald asked Prime Minister John Key when rumours began circulating about the video, however he said "that's a matter for later in the day."

4.10pm: Prime Minister John Key has told Parliament that the situation at Pike River is "grave."

Mr Key introduced a motion to express the concern of Parliament for those affected by Friday's blast, a motion which was supported by all parties.

"We hope and pray the missing men are alive and well, but given we have not had contact with them for nearly four days the situation remains grave," said Mr Key.

"Although we must stay optimistic, police are now planning for the possible loss of life."

Opposition leader Phil Goff of the Labour party praised the miners' families and the local community for their courage, and demanded an inquiry be held.

"With 21st century technology and knowledge, a disaster like this simply should not happen."

4.03pm: The Western Australian government confirmed it was sending a new robot to take part in the search of the mine, where conditions are too dangerous for human rescuers.

ABC News reported that an Air New Zealand flight would collect the Water Corporation-owned robot, which is equipped with cameras, lights, communications and gas testing equipment.

The remote-controlled robot has a range of six kilometres.

3.57pm: A spokesperson for Defence Minister Wayne Mapp said the second robot sent to Pike River was designed for 'mine disposal' and, if used, would be adapted to travel the two kilometres into the mine.

"They'll put extra batteries on them...they've put gas detection equipment on them and they already have two cameras".

The spokesperson said the first robot was capable of operating in rainy conditions, but had been knocked offline by a "waterfall."

3.39pm: Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson said there was a tragic situation unfolding at the Pike River mine and there would need to be answers.

She said that two inspectors and an expert were enough to handle New Zealand's six underground coal mines.

"I've got no reason to suggest that's inappropriate."

3.33pm: It is still not known if the second NZ Defence Force robot will be deployed into the Pike River mine.

The first bore hole being drilled into the mine is expected to be completed at any minute.

Laurie Drew, father of trapped miner Zen Drew, told Newstalk ZB that angry family members wanted to know why the second robot hadn't been ready to go when the first one failed.

3.22pm: Grey District Mayor Tony Kokshoorn said this morning's breakdown of the robot had angered family members and made them question the rescue efforts at Pike River.

Hearing the high-tech Defence Force robot had short circuited after water from the ceiling dripped on it was a "kick in the guts" for them, he said.

2.28pm: The second NZ Defence Force robot has arrived at the Pike River coal mine, but the decision to use it will be left to officials at the site.

2.22pm: Sending a robot into the Pike River coal mine where 29 men are trapped was always a "long shot", rescue robot expert Professor Robin Murphy of Texas A&M University said.

"It is always a long shot using a robot for a situation or environment that it's not designed for - we don't know much about using robots underground."

2.05pm Defence Minister Wayne Mapp said a second NZ Defence Force robot is on its way to the Pike River mine.

The first one was deployed into the mine portal this morning but falling water in the mine caused it to malfunction.

1.48pm: St Peter's Church at 11 Killarney St in Takapuna, Auckland, has candles being lit for the 29 miners missing in the Pike River mine.

The church is open until 7pm each day for people to stop and spend a moment in silence.

1.32pm: Carol Rose, mother of missing Pike River miner Stuart Mudge, said the potential loss of all 29 men raised real worries about families being left with no breadwinners, and unable to pay bills and mortgages.

12.58pm: Churches on the West Coast and around New Zealand have been holding vigils and special services for their communities for people to pray for those missing in the Pike River mine.

Auckland's St Matthew in-the-city is now offering space for people to have a personal vigil, light a candle and pray for the miners at St Matthews in the central city.The church is open from 10am to 5pm daily.

There will also be a special service tomorrow at 12.20pm, including prayers, a time of silence and commmunion.

Other churches are invited to contact to inform their communities of special services they are holding in support of the 29 miners and their families.

12.49pm: Earlier this morning, Pike River CEO Peter Whittall explained the logistics of the mine rescue operation. Watch this video to see details of the mine's interior.

12.41pm: Families and friends have begun to share details of the 29 men in the mine. Here is what we know about them.

12.11pm: Herald photo and video journalist Simon Baker has spoken out about reports that a phone call was made from within the mine after Friday's explosion.

"I've been in the Pike River mine and can tell you there is NO cellphone coverage underground," Baker tweeted.

"To suggest a message was sent from a miner is daft."

12.07pm: Grey District Mayor Tony Kokshoorn says he's just been on Australian Breakfast show Sunrise where he appealed for Julia Gillard to "just please put it (the robot) on an airforce jet and bring it over to us."

"I've no doubt they (the Australian Government) will have pulled out every stop for us."

He also told that the robot that failed overnight had been "the bright spot" for the people of Greymouth and the Pike River mining community.

"We were hanging our hat on that. When the robot packed up and when they said they couldn't retrieve it I started losing hope at that point."

Mr Kokshoorn said he was only a lay person.

"My first thoughts were, why didn't it have a bit of Glad Wrap over it?"

11.32am: The release of a report on the use of lignite has been postponed because of concern it would be misinterpreted as a comment on mining at Pike River Coal on the West Coast, Radio New Zealand reported.

A spokesperson for Mr Brownlee said the minister phoned Dr Wright on Tuesday morning and suggested the release of the report could be viewed as insensitive.

11.18am: Prime Minister John Key has acknowledged his own frustration as well as that of the affected families and the entire country over the time it is taking to get rescuers to the 29 Pike River miners.

"It's fair to say there is a degree of frustration on the ground," Mr Key said this morning almost four days after the blast.

"The families are frustrated, we are frustrated, the country is frustrated."

However he trusted that the advice of experts now at site was the best available in New Zealand and Australia.

"The issue is can someone walk into the mine and take out miners that might be alive and the answer in a unified way is no."

10.53am: Police Minister Judith Collins and Police Commissioner Howard Broad are scheduled to arrive in Greymouth at 1.30pm.

They will then go to the mine site and before returning to the town.

10.47am: Operation Pike commander Gary Knowles said officials are trying to source another robot from the NZ Defence Force for the interim before more advanced units from Australia or the United States could be used.

Pike River CEO Peter Whittall said gas samples were still "showing elements of combustion" and hadn't changed since yesterday.

There will be another press conference at 5.30pm.

10.43am: Operation Pike commander Gary Knowles has continued to tell reporters that he was preparing for all possible outcomes.

"We're looking at what happened on the day. What has happened since then. What are the chances of survival. Where will the men be."

"If one of those options means that those guys are underground and are no longer alive, we are planning for that as well."

Mr Knowles would not comment on whether the NZDF robot malfunctioned because of water, and said it was an issue for the Army.

"I'm just as disappointed as everyone else."

10.41am: Operation Pike commander Gary Knowles has dismissed reports that a phone call was made from inside the mine by Allan Dixon.

"We can technically show that it did not come from the mine."

Mr Knowles said the call was made by Mr Dixon's mother to his partner.

10.38am: Operation Pike commander Gary Knowles said the robot can't be retrieved because the environment remained unstable and could change at any section.

While there might be fresh air in that part of the tunnel, Mr Knowles said the instability of the mine continued to pose dangers.

He said he wanted to see "people rescuing people" but that with the passage of time, he was preparing for "all options."

10.33am: Pike River CEO Peter Whittall has shown media a detailed layout of the coal mine, where the miners were known to be before the blast, where the current hole is being drilled and where others could be placed.

"We're starting to clear the area and starting to take the rig from one spot to another," he said.

Mr Whittall refused to speculate on where the blast came from.

That would be "unfair," he said.

Mr Whittall said the miners would not have been working at the time of the explosion and that maintenance activity had been talking place.

The NZDF's robot had travelled 500 metres into the mine when it stopped working, according to information Mr Whittall had been given.

10.30am: Pike River CEO Peter Whittall has praised the support of the police, NZ Mines Rescue and the volunteers ready to assist at the mine.

Mr Whittall said the bore hole had reached a depth of 142 metres shortly before this morning's press conference began after 10am.

He expected drilling would take a further five hours before it would break through.

"We're putting holes where we can, we're getting data where we can."

Mr Whittall said this morning's family briefing was difficult.

"It's getting more difficult for them. They're relying on the support of each other. They're really struggling and some are coping better than others."

Family members were finding it hard to cope without knowing everything that was going on, Mr Whittall said.

He said family members found the description of the mine tunnel as being like a "barrel of a gun" upsetting, but that it was the best way it could be described to them.

10.22am: NZ Mines Rescue general manager Trevor Watts said there was still a risk of explosion.

"We have got significant resources to go at a moment's notices."

He said he called for a further 18 personnel from New South Wales Mines Rescue and now had their support.

Mr Watts said the conditions that the rescue personnel would face could be "hostile", warm and humid, and that staff would have to be rotated.

There were 65 rescue personnel and 30 support personnel at hand, he said.

"You guys are well aware that we have huge resources. Everything is ready to go."

Mr Watts said it was "heartwrenching" that the "highly-trained" rescue personnel were unable to begin their operations because of the instability in the mine.

"Do not start making comparisons to what NZ Mines Rescue does to what the NZ fire service does," he warned.

"The conditions we will face are of a long duration," and the breathing apparatus is "totally different" to what has been seen in the media or what the fire service use.

10.17am: Operation Pike commander Gary Knowles said family members are "extremely frustrated" at there having not been a rescue effort made.

He said drilling was advancing in a "positive manner" and hoped that the hole would be completed today.

One of the drilling crew was injured overnight and had been taken to hospital with a sprain in his leg.

Mr Knowles said the NZ Defence Force deployed their robot at 6am. At 8am, the NZDF confirmed the robot had been broken down.

Negotiations are underway to bring in "advanced" robots from the United States and Australia, and the devices would be used as soon as they were available, Mr Knowles said.

Experts have advised officials that the gas levels are still too unstable for a rescue operation.

Seismic activity is being monitored, with officials listening for movement and tapping underground. Mr Knowles said it would not record voices.

He has encouraged people to go to the Salvation Army's drop-in centre in Greymouth.

"We are planning for all possible outcomes," Mr Knowles warned.

"The longer it goes on, hopes fade. We have to be realistic."

10.15am: A community drop-in has opened centre in Greymouth at the Salvation Army Citadel on Tainui Street so the community can up-to-date information on the rescue effort as well as access support services.

"Greymouth is a tight knit community and this incident has hit them hard," Salvation Army Greymouth corps officer Captain Charles Prattley said. "A drop-in centre was set up for the families early on, but we are very aware the community also needs support.

"We invite all community members to come down to the centre. We want to make it a place where the community can come to talk about what is happening. We also want to have the most up-to-date information available at the centre and create an area where the community can write messages of support to the families."

The community drop-in centre will be open from 8am to 8pm from Monday to Friday, 10am to 4pm on Saturday and 12pm to 4am on Sunday.

10.11am: The Australian has reported that trapped Pike River miner Allan Dixon made a brief phone call to his partner shortly after Friday's blast.

Leona Dixon, Allan's sister-in-law, told the newspaper from Greymouth that the message was "something very brief, like 'I love you.'"

9.52am: Year 10 students in Greymouth and Reefton won't be affected by secondary school teachers' industrial action today.

Rostering by PPTA members will continue at other high schools around the country.

Greymouth High School Principal Jim Luders told Newstalk ZB the local branch of the union has cancelled its action, because of the mine emergency.

He said it means Year 10 students can come to school, so life should be a bit more normal for them and easier for their parents as well.

9.49am: A robot sent into the Pike River mine was not waterproofed and malfunctioned when water fell onto it, relatives of the 29 miners trapped underground were told this morning.

Relatives reacted angrily when told the robot had stopped working when it was exposed to water, one family member told the Herald.

9.38am: The family of Rachelle Weaver, who is pregnant with the child of missing Australian miner Josh Ufer, have met their future in-laws for the first time.

Rachelle's mother Nancy Langley told Radio New Zealand said her daughter is coping "reasonably well", but it has been "emotional rollercoaster".

"Obviously she has ups and downs. Sometimes she is hopeful - then she gets distraught."

Ms Langley said my Ufer's families had arrived in New Zealand - the first time the two families had met.

"It's not the best circumstances to meet your future in-laws but it is good to have them here."

She said Mr Ufer and her daughter are well suited for each other.
"He's a generous sweet loving young man. If you were looking for a son-in-law, Josh is what you are looking for."

9.25am: A Defence Force robot has been sent into the Pike River mine but has broken down, a family member said after relatives were briefed by rescue authorities this morning.

Families were briefed at 8am on the operation to rescue the men. One relative told the Herald after the briefing that they had been told the robot was in the mine but had stopped working.

9.15am: Here is a summary of the five things you need to know today about the Pike River mine situation.

9.10am: An unconfirmed report from a family member says the NZ Defence Force's robot has broken down in the Pike River mine.

9.05am: A South African news website is reporting that Jacobus "Koos" Jonker, one of the 29 missing in the Pike River mine, had last month expressed concerns about its safety.

Eyewitness News said Mr Jonker, 47, from Coben, South Africa, told friend Bertie Buitendach he did not enjoy working at the mine.

"He told this friend of ours that the mine is unsafe and he does not feel comfortable and safe to work there," Mr Buitendach told the website.

The site said Mr Jonker apparently applied for a transfer just a day before the explosion that left him trapped.

Mr Buitendach told Eyewitness News he has no doubt his friend is staying positive underground.

"We are just praying on this side that they come out alive, because apparently there is little hope for them," he said.

9.00am: Families are still being briefed by officials on what has been happening at Pike River overnight.

The NZ Defence Force's robot remains on standby.

8.56am: "All the risk-assessing and 'no entry until it's safe' nonsense flies in the face of reality," a mining expert has written in a letter to Newstalk ZB.

He said a small team of experienced mine rescue staff should be allowed to investigate the mine immediately.

"God help us if all this is what we have come to when PC protocols can have absolute precedence over practical reality", he wrote.

"Where is the honesty?"

8.52am: Grey District Mayor Tony Kokshoorn said the news of the successful rescue of 29 miners from a flooded coal mine in China overnight had buoyed the families of the 29 miners missing in Pike River.

The families were holding on to the hope the rescue would be a "hat-trick" of successful rescues, following the Chilean rescue last month, he told RadioLive.

Mr Kokshoorn said the drill should be through in around an hours time.
A police spokesperson said the drill is still progressing slowly, but could not say how long it would be until it breaks through, saying media would be briefed at 10am.

8.44am: "There are a few instances where people have yelled at the media," Newstalk ZB's Scarlett Cvitanovich said.

She said international media had been asking questions that weren't "suitable" and that local media had been "shocked" by their behaviour.

"There's definitely a line that is crossed in media conferences. Some of the international media are asking questions that don't need to be asked? Yes."

She said families have been calling the media "vultures" and she could see where they were coming from.

8.32am: Energy Minister Gerry Brownlee is upset with the conduct of some journalists covering the Pike River story, Newstalk ZB reported.

A former Herald reporter agreed.

"I think some of the questions at the press conferences have been a bit much," said Claire Harvey, now with Australia's Herald Sun.

She told Newstalk ZB some journalists had used the conferences as an opportunity to get "a bit heavy."

8.25am: Beaconsfield mine collapse survivor Brant Webb said "it's a tough call down there" at Pike River.

He told Newstalk ZB he empathised with the rescue workers who are still waiting for their chance to enter the mine.

"I understand but the way it works is, you don't want to put a person's life on the line to save someone else."

"But it's eating them up inside," said Mr Webb.

"Don't go in for a recovery, go in for a rescue. We don't want to hear the word 'recovery' come out the way youse guys [are saying] right now."

8.18am: Pike River chairman John Dow said the Department of Conservation had provided good support.

"We've got a terrific relationship," he told Newstalk ZB.

He said the NZ Defence Force robot is ready to enter the mine, but he said he was not sure when it would be deployed fully. He said it could only operate in the fresh-air areas of the mine.

He said that drilling ventilation holes in mines as they are being built is "not normally part of the planning" and "not considered to be necessary."

He dismissed cost as a factor for this as well as non-perishable food stocks, saying they do not plan for "one in a 50 year" occurrence and said the mine was run according to "international best practice."

"Best practice has come from long experience. The issue is not food here."

8.15am: Commander of Operation Pike, Tasman police superintendent Gary Knowles, said emergency services and welfare agencies have been overwhelmed with messages of goodwill from New Zealand and around the world.

"We have been inundated with messages of support from throughout the country and other parts of the world including Australia, South Africa, the United Kingdom and United States," he said.

"We'd like to thank all of those people who've taken the time to send us a message of support. These are all greatly appreciated and continue to sustain us."

8.09am: A Solid Energy spokesperson confirmed to National Radio that a week before the Pike River explosion, the Spring Creek mine was evacuated after the monitoring system detected a risk of spontaneous combustion in the coal.

She said 10 of the mine's 180 were evacuated and the mine, 15km north of Greymouth, reopened four days later. She said the monitoring system had worked well and spontaneous combustion is a well-understood hazard in the industry.

8.00am: The Pike River emergency has resonated with All Blacks assistant coach Wayne Smith, who recognised some surnames among the list of 29 missing miners.

"I know some of the rugby names," he told NZPA.

"And one thing that really brought it home to me was watching the head of search and rescue being interviewed on TV. He had a Gilbert rugby ball behind him. I just thought most of those guys were probably looking forward to coming off shift and watching a bit of footy at the weekend - that brings it home."

7.57am: The British High Commissioner Vicki Treadell told Newstalk ZB she was happy with the way officials have supported the Pike River community since Friday's blast.

7.38am: The mayor of the Grey District said it is getting close to the point where rescuers should "have a go", and send in the robot.

Tony Kokshoorn told TVNZ's Breakfast this morning he appreciated the safety of the rescuers should not be compromised but for the families' sake the miners had to be found.

"The robot sounds like a good compromise to me," he said. "[If the robot was sent in] we are going to find out where our miners are."

"It's a new mine. There is a limited area where they can be."

Mr Kokshoorn felt for the families of the 29 miners who were realistic but not giving up hope.

"It's getting desperate, it has been five days. These families are hanging on to everything they can."

7.33am: Laurie Drew, the father of missing miner Zen, told National Radio this morning the families hope for new developments today, but expected it would "be the same as yesterday".

Mr Drew also could not understand why the families could not were not allowed to stay up at the mine entrance to wait for their loved ones to come out - either way things eventuate.

The families will be briefed by authorities about the progress of the rescue at 8am.

7.19am: Pike River chairman John Dow said the company would be briefing the families of the miners at 8am.

Mr Dow told National Radio suggestions that the company had altered its mining practices in order to catch up on an order of coal to India were "almost mischievous."

He said it was still not known exactly what caused the explosion at the Pike River mine, but said a methane explosion was likely.

The quality of air coming in and out of the mine is monitored regularly, Mr Dow said.

He also said the company had "not much doubt" that the monitoring and managing of methane levels in the mine had been satisfactory.

6.50am: Good morning. We are now into the fifth day of the Pike River mine emergency.

The sky over Greymouth may be overcast at the moment but conditions should be fine in the area for the next few days, ensuring at least the weather won't hinder the Pike River rescue.

MetService forecaster Paul Mallinson said there was a ridge of high pressure for the next few days.

Mr Mallinson forecast today it would be generally fine with light south-westerly winds, tomorrow would also be generally fine with light winds, while Thursday may be patchy with a bit of drizzle.

"On the whole, right through to Monday and even Tuesday next week, we should have very stable weather down there."

He said the Greymouth typically gets bands of rain and high fronts coming up the West Coast.

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