This is a Herald on Sunday editorial, published ahead of tomorrow's paper
In Westland, earning a living has always been a risky business. It's wild country on the Coast and, given that much of the wealth is pulled from the sea or carved from deep under the ground, it takes a special breed to live and work there.
As a result, they are no strangers to disaster. Most of the mining disasters in our history have taken place under the thin strip of land between the Southern Alps and the Tasman: a gas explosion in the Brunner Mine in 1896, which remains our deadliest mine disaster, took 65 souls; the Dobson mine explosion 30 years later killed nine; and in 1967 at the Strongman mine, near Greymouth 19 died in an explosion.
As we write, Coasters remain agonisingly unaware of the fate of the 29 trapped in the Pike River Mine 50km northeast of Greymouth.
As a nation, we watch and wait with them, hoping that they have some sense of how our thoughts are with them in these terrible hours.
It is the nature of events like these that we are inclined to fear the worst. The injuries sustained by the men who were some distance from the blast and escaped shortly after the explosion on Friday afternoon suggest that the underground conflagration must have been substantial.
But several factors urge an optimistic outlook. Memories of improbable survival in Chile are fresh in our minds; Pike River is a big mine - it is more than 2km from the entrance to the pit bottom; and the mine roof is enormously strong.
Most important, potential disaster has a powerful force to reckon with down there: the indomitable Coaster temperament and the will to survive of some of the toughest blokes in the country.
With luck, the country will receive news that the brave 29 are back above ground and telling tall tales over a beer. But come what may, the Coasters may be sure that the country is with them.