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We bring you the latest updates from the West Coast where 27 miners are trapped inside the Pike River coal mine.

8.09pm:

That's the end of our live updates for today - thanks for following along.

There will be no rescue mission mounted this evening and we don't anticipate any further developments in the situation until the morning.

We'll be back again from 7am tomorrow.

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7.28pm:

Greymouth police have confirmed the nationalities of the 29 trapped miners to TVNZ.

The 29 comprise 24 New Zealanders, two Australians, two Britons and one South African.

6.55pm:

There will be no rescue operation until tomorrow and no more air samples conducted until at least tomorrow morning, Superintendent Gary Knowles told

One News.

The last sampling today took place at 4pm this afternoon.

Mr Knowles said the delays have been "hugely" frustrating for the rescue team.

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"We take this really personally and we want to do our best to get them out."

6.50pm:

Minister of Energy and Resources Gerry Brownlee has told

One News

he understood the frustration people had with the rescue operation's delays.

"No one is happy or comfortable with the set back due to the gas levels."

Mr Brownlee dismissed concerns about the safety of the mine, saying it is "well constructed" but gas is an "ever present hazard, and the focus at the moment is on the missing miners and their families".

"I don't think any of us can understand what they are going through."

He said the Government had received messages of support from across the world, including offers of assistance from Australia, Chile and the United States.

6.40pm:

Wayne Palmer, 58, says waiting is the hardest part.

He has lived in Greymouth for 10 years and said he had been talking to people today who had friends in the mine.

"Everyone is feeling emotional and the shock is really strong now," he told NZPA.

"It's when we find out the outcome that there will be more feeling, it's very hard waiting and not knowing what to think."

A local business owner who did not want to be named said: "I haven't felt like this since Cave Creek," referring to the collapse of a viewing platform in Paparoa Natoinal Park in 1995, which killed 14 people.

"The rumour mill is going and going. There will be a fair bit of shock but we will pull through. Supporting each other is the thing," the 64-year-old said.

"There was a fellow I was worried about but we found him at the pub, now we just have to wait and see what happens with the rest."

6.20pm:

Lawrie Drew, whose son Zen is down the mine, has told

One News

families are frustrated with the delay in the rescue mission.

"If I had my way I'd go in there myself - I'm not scared of nothing."

Mr Drew said the families were also disappointed they were not told about the explosion by Pike River and that they are not allowed to wait at the mine site for their loved ones "regardless of how it works out".

"I just want my boy home," he said.

The families will be next briefed by authorities at 7am tomorrow,

One News

reported. Media will be briefed next at 8am.

5.50pm:

Weather conditions, which today stopped helicopters from accessing Pike River Mine, are slowly improving, according to WeatherWatch.co.nz.

Low cloud hampered aerial efforts today but conditions are now dry with clouds likely to clear or lift over the coming 12 hours.

Head analyst Philip Duncan said although Sunday's forecast called for cloud and a few showers, conditions are unlikely to be as widespread as they were today.

5.33pm:

Christchurch City Mayor Bob Parker said he called Grey District Mayor Tony Kokshoorn this morning to offer him his support.

"I think he is doing a great job in a tough place," Mr Parker said. "I had a chat with him and said if there was anything the city could do he just had to ask.

"Let's hope we hear some good news soon."

5.10pm:

An Australian mining expert is backing the Pike River rescuers' cautious approach, saying there was "certainly not" an urgent need to reach the 29 missing men at the risk to the welfare of the rescuers.

Professor Bruce Hebblewhite, the head of department at the University of New South Wales Mining Engineering School, said there was a balance between reaching the missing miners quickly and risking the lives of the rescuers.

"You should be extremely cautious before any rescue - you have to ensure the rescuers lives aren't put at risk," he said.

4.59pm:

A team of Australian rescue experts are on their way assist New Zealand, their Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd says.

A technical expert from Emergency Management Australia and a team of six from NSW Emergency Management would lend support to the rescue operation at the Pike River Coal mine, Mr Rudd told reporters in Sydney.

"These forms of assistance will be deployed today and other forms of assistance remain ready for deployment should that be necessary," he said.

4.48pm:

Blair Sims, confirmed as one of the missing miners, has been described as an "absolute try scoring machine" by West Coast Rugby League Association chairman Peter Kerridge.

Married with two children, Mr Sims plays for Suburbs Rugby League Club and also represents the West Coast and South Island at a representative level.

Suburbs and West Coast coach Phil Campbell has known Mr Sims since he was about 15.

"He's been a major part of our club side...We just hope that he can pull out of this," he told

Herald on Sunday

reporter Kieran Nash.

"He's one of the guys who could have possibly played at a higher level if the opportunity had come earlier in his career.

"But he chose to stay in the West Coast and build a family and a career in mining."

4.30pm:

Red Cross volunteers are leaving the welfare centre and miners' relatives have been seen emerging in tears, says

Herald on Sunday

reporter Anna Leask.

Prime Minister John Key is due to make an announcement at 5.15pm today.

4.20pm:

Pike River chief Peter Whittall has refused to be drawn on what the chances are of the miners emerging safe, saying he did not work on gut feelings.

"These are people's lives. I'm not going to give a percentage to a family or work on my gut. We work on facts and when the time is right, and we are comfortable that it is safe, we'll be going in," Mr Knowles said.

3.40pm:

Tasman Police district commander Superintendent Gary Knowles this afternoon ruled out the possibility of dropping supplies down the Pike River mine shaft.

"We don't want to put something down there that causes a fire underground and risks those people's lives."

Chief executive Peter Whittall said the compressed air line, although damaged in the explosion, was still pumping fresh air into the mine and was "flowing very freely".

"We have kept those compressors going and we are pumping fresh air into the mine somewhere so 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."

Mr Whittall said if he was trapped underground near a fresh air pipe he would not move.

"I would be sitting tight. You would know you were in fresh air. You wouldn't know what the atmosphere was around the rest of the mine."

3.20pm:

A family member of loader driver Daniel Rockhouse, 24, said it had been a "surreal time" for them and they remained concerned for another family member still down the mine.

Mr Rockhouse was blown off his machine by the blast but has since been discharged from hospital.

2.32pm:

Expressions of concern for the trapped miners are pouring in from around the world, Prime Minister John Key says.

"Prince William personally sent me an email before to say his heart and thoughts go out to the miners."

The big issue now was balancing the rescue of those trapped with the safety of rescue workers, he said.

2.08pm:

Air tests back from the Pike River coal mine are "inconclusive", chief executive Peter Whittall said at a press conference this afternoon.

Four samples have been airlifted from the mine today, but police are still refusing to give the rescue team the go ahead.

"At the moment we've had to fly [gas samples] from up in the mountain down to Rapahoe, which is a small town just up the coast, to have the gas analysed. Earlier one of the issues was gas leakage and contamination so what we're doing about that is getting a gas chromatograph," said Mr Whittall.

"Once we've done that we can do our gas bag samples on site more easily, much quicker and more reliably."

He explained: "The rescue teams need to see certain trends - they actually analyse quite a different number of gases within the air, not just one or two, and they look for a trending within certain gas ranges. They are not seeing that trend at the moment and therefore they cannot be conclusive as to what their strategy is.

"They will typically be looking at the trend of methane, the trend of carbon monoxide, the trend of ethane, and a number of trace gases with the mine.

"In this case they are looking for a downward trend in carbon monoxide, with would indicate that there must be no further heating which would create a hazard underground."

2.05pm:

Tasman Police district commander Superintendent Gary Knowles said once a "window of opportunity" opened, rescue workers would be ready to go.

"We don't know. It could be overnight, it could happen right now."

Officials fear a rescue effort could trigger a second explosion and will not allow a team to move until test results prove combustion is unlikely.

1.53pm:

Prime Minister John Key is expected to speak at a press conference at 2pm.

Meanwhile, the St John Ambulance service has said it will not issue any further updates until tomorrow, "unless there are subsequent developments in the rescue operation."

1.06pm:

There are "grave concerns" for the safety of at least two Australians trapped underground, the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) says.

A spokeswoman confirmed at least two Australians are among 29 miners trapped after an explosion at the Pike River Coal mine near Greymouth on Friday.

"There are grave concerns for the safety of two Australians whose names are on the list of those trapped underground," the spokeswoman told AAP.

The Australian consul general to New Zealand was present at the site and liaising with police, rescuers and families, she added.

12.51pm:

Low cloud is hampering rescue efforts of 29 miners trapped underground, but officials say rescuers will make the two hour trek to the top of the mine shaft if need be.

Pike River Chairman John Dow said helicopters were on standby to retrieve gas samples which would determine if the mine was safe to enter.

"You don't send rescue teams underground until you are sure of the environment in which you are sending them.

He said that no test results had come back and no helicopters had been sent.

"They need to know what the mix of gases is in the mine air, so they don't run the risk of triggering a second another explosion which might endanger the lives of rescuers and jeopardise the lives of miners that might be safe underground," he said.

Helicopters had been on standby since 9 this morning, he said.

"We got a sense of what the air quality was like last night, but there's concern surface air may have been mixed with that coming up the shaft because we were only able to take the sample from the top of the vent shaft."

When asked if he expected the rescue effort to begin in a matter of hours, not minutes as some media have reported, Mr Dow said "yes."

12.15pm:

Grey District Mayor Tony Kokshoorn says three gas samples from the Pike River mine have been tested and found to be safe. Rescuers are expected to enter the mine shortly.

"It's crunch time," he said.

12.13pm:

The Red Cross' Hokitika Welfare Team has set up a catering facility near the Pike River mine and is offering assistance to miners' families.

A welfare centre at the Red Cross First Aid training centre at Tainui Rd in Greymouth has been assisting families all night.

12.08pm:

Pilots have told

3 News

that if low cloud around the Pike River mine does not lift there will be no flying up to the mine today. It is currently raining in Reefton, where it has been cloudy since first light.

11.40am:

West Coast DHB communications manager Bryan Jamieson says Greymouth Hospital is on stand-by, with staff and surgeons on-call to treat miners as they are rescued.

"Depending on the injuries, if there were severe burns they might be flown out," he said.

"But staff can be here in a short time so they can deal with [any injuries]."

11.32am:

West Coast DHB staff are on standby to deal with injuries from miners brought over from Pike River.

11.22am:

Grey District Mayor Tony Kokshoorn is clinging onto hope that the 29 miners trapped underground will be found alive, but admits "every hour that goes by, it gets more dire."

"We have to do that for the families. But we are being realistic. There's been a major accident," he said.

Kokshoorn said the community had been hit hard by the incident.

"One of my councillors is down there. A young fella who got the West Coast rugby league player of the year last week is down there."

11.05am:

Don't forget that if you're on Twitter, you can keep up with updates via the "official" hashtag:

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10.51am:

Readers continue to share their messages of support for the Pike River staff and their families. You can add your own

10.22am:

Churches in Greymouth are holding special services in support of the Pike River miners, their families and communities.

St Patrick's Catholic Church is holding a 6pm service at High St.

Holy Trinity Anglican Church is also holding a 6pm service at Tainui Rd, and is open all day for people who wish to pray and light candles.

10.15am:

The space where the men are trapped is not a vertical shaft like the one where the Chilean miners were trapped.

The Pike River mine is accessed by a tunnel which enters the side of the hill at a slight incline, about 2 to 2.5 kilometres in length. The rest of the mine then burrows up inside the hill.

From the top of the hill there is a ventilation shaft where fresh air is being sucked into the main mine, however it is expected the miners will come out the main access tunnel.

"The vertical distance [from the surface] is only 120 metres, but that is not the way [the miners] would look to get out of the mine," said Pike River CEO Peter Whittall.

Outlining the rescue procedure, Mr Whittall said tests still need to be done to ensure the level of methane in the air and that the environment in the mine is safe for the rescue team.

It was hoped these tests could be done by air, however helicopters cannot land at the entrance to the mine because of the thick cloud.

This means tests may have to be done by officials on the ground and it could be up to 6 hours before the results are known.

Experts are flying in from Australia to assist with the gathering and testing of air samples.

Once officials have given the rescue team permission to enter the mine, Mr Whittall says they will first need to enter the fresh air base, which is a safe point where they know they will be able to breathe safely.

"From there [the team] can foray into other parts of the mine to search and remove our employees and friends that are in there," Mr Whittall said.

9.55am:

Rain has been falling at the Pike River mine for the last 30 minutes, reports the

Herald on Sunday

's Anna Leask.

Helicopters have been flying over all morning but cannot land at the entrance to the mine because of the thick cloud.

Media from Channel 7 and Reuters, are on the ground.

Relatives of miners have been coming and going from the welfare centre all morning.

9.52am:

Ron Boddy, a Pike River miner who was off work yesterday, told the

Dominion Post

that colleagues last night told him the two men who had managed to clamber to safety did so via the air return - a narrow shaft that doubles as an escape route.

"It is pretty damn high [a few hundred feet] so it would have been hard going.

"They could all get out the same way but it would be one man after the other - that's how tight it is."

9.50am:

Energy Minister Gerry Brownlee says he has a "high level of hope" for a successful rescue.

9.25am:

Pike River CEO Peter Whittall says the crisis has been "extremely difficult" for him.

"When I look down the list [of those trapped] I can see the faces of everyone on the list," he said.

"There's a brother of one that got out, there's a son underground of one of the mining officials. These are men that everyone in the room knows."

9.09am:

Locals have gathered for Mass at St Patricks Church, Greymouth to pray for the trapped Pike River miners.

9.07am:

It could be several hours before a rescue attempt can begin for the 27 miners trapped underground, because of concerns about air quality below the surface.

"Our primary focus over the next 24 hours is rescue and recovery. Before we put rescue teams down want to make sure environment is stable," Whittall said.

Whittall said damage to the upper part of mine shaft in the explosion meant "we can't get accurate samples."

"The only way we can determine what is happening underground is to monitor the air coming to the ground."

"We can't tell the absolute quality of that, so we can't risk sending anyone into the mine."

"We are very confident once we can get some bag samples we should be able to get some rescuers underground. If you can prove there is no ignition source [then] the rescue team would go underground," Whittall said.

"In 6 - 8 hours we will have enough analysis as to whether the rescue team can go underground."

Mr Whittall said the families of the trapped miners were very distressed and drew on each other for support after a night with intermittent information coming through. However, the families were very pleased to get a direct update from the mining company this morning.

The families are "very together as a group." A lot of the family members have been holding hands and hugging at the Red Cross centre where they are gathered.

"This is a search and rescue operation and we are going to bring these guys home," said police superintendent Gary Knowles.

8.51am:

An anxious wait for families of the workers trapped at Pike River lies ahead with the news that it could be at least six hours before rescuers can enter the mine.

8.43am:

The message Pike River CEO Peter Whittall is sending families and friends of the trapped miners is that this disaster is a "shared experience".

"I know all of the men, I've employed all of the men," said Mr Whittall.

"We don't have any knowledge of what is going on underground because we don't have any communication. We do have one phone down there. We have been ringing that number but we haven't be able to contact anyone."

"There's no predicting what anyone might do," Mr Whittall said.

"If I was them I would be sitting tight, I would not be going anywhere because I don't know what's between there and the surface."

Mr Whittall said the hazards the trapped miners have to deal with will include air pollution, high methane levels, high carbon dioxide and low levels of oxygen.

The trapped miners are made up of people from West Coast, others from around NZ, two Australians, three to four British and eight with unknown nationalities.

8.36am:

Air New Zealand, Red Cross, Victim Support and Civil Defence are among the organisations lending support.

Pike River boss Peter Whittall said he has assured family and friends of the trapped miners that the company is doing every humanly and technically possible to recover them.

"It's very much a kinship and brotherhood in the mining industry. I have assured them we are doing everything that's humanly possible and technically possible to recover their families and friends."

"The families are very obviously distressed. No knowledge is a bad thing in these situations. There was very intermittent knowledge coming through overnight," he said.

"Our challenge for a lot of these guys - they often move house a couple of times - is that trying to find the next of kin to ring is often quite difficult. That took us many hours into the night until we were able to locate the relevant people and get them here at 7am this morning."

8.33am:

The first indications of air levels in the Pike River coal mine have been delivered by CEO Peter Whittall.

"The fresh air base is working, drawing air into the mine."

Whittall warned that any early attempts to rescue the trapped workers could trigger a second explosion. Rescuers believe that the trapped men were working close together, no more than 700m apart.

All next-of-kin have been notified.

8.22am:

"Mine explosions don't typically damage the roof unless there are timber props that can be knocked out, we don't have those in the mine, we've got a very strong roof, it's all fully bolted and I would believe it's unlikely that an explosion even of a significant magnitude would actually damage the [mine shaft]," said Pike River chief Peter Whitall.

8.13am:

A collapse of the Pike River Coal mine is "unlikely", CEO Peter Whittall has told a press conference this morning.

8.10am:

If you're following the story on Twitter, don't forget the "official" hashtag is

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8.07am:

Grey District Mayor Tony Kokshoorn told Radio New Zealand the recent mine rescue in Chile is giving him hope.

"We remember the Chile mine recently, that every miner got out. At the moment, we're hanging onto every hope, just like they did.

However, Mr Kokshoorn said a speedy rescue was not likely.

"Rescue crews are doing all they can, but this is going to be a very slow recovery."

The West Coast District Health Board told NZPA it was working with other emergency agencies and had support available from other District Health Boards and the Ministry of Health if required.

7.48am:

The St John Ambulance service says its team at the Pike River mine includes incident managers and paramedics who have been trained in mine rescues.

St John Regional Operations Manager Chris Haines says resources from other centres are not required at this stage.

Chairman of Pike River Coal John Dow refused to comment on the fate of those trapped.

"We're hoping for the best, but we don't have enough information to speculate at this point," he said.

Mr Dow said each miner carries safety equipment, including a self-rescuer - a device which gives miners oxygen for up to an hour.

Mr Dow said these self-rescuers are also gathered in several caches throughout the mine.

7.20am

Families and friends of the trapped miners are gathering outside the offices of Pike River Coal on Tainui St in Greymouth. Grey District Mayor Tony Kokshoorn is greeting and embracing some of those arriving.

6.30am

Pike River Coal and emergency rescuers are to hold a press conference around 7.30am to update everyone on the situation at the mine where 27 men are trapped after an explosion.

We will bring you latest news as it happens.

6.20am

All Blacks captain Richie McCaw has sent well-wishes from Ireland ahead of the Northern Tour test match. He told NZPA: "It's not good when you hear things like that happen back home ... We wait to wait and see what happens, hopefully the people are OK."

6.00am

A Facebook page set up to help support the people of the West Coast and families of the trapped Pike River miners has 3,333 supporters in just ten hours.

5.43am

There is still no communication with the 27 miners trapped inside the Pike River coal mine after an explosion yesterday.Rescue workers and police have been on standby all night waiting for any word from the men, 15 employees of Pike River Coal and 12 contractors.

Pike River chairman John Dow said the lack of any communication would be frustrating to anxious families waiting for news.

"It's frustrating for them, it's frustrating for us that there isn't more to say. We are focusing all our efforts on our staff and their families and loved ones and mobilising as much help as we can to assist them while we endeavour to understand better just what happened underground."

5.42am

Rescuers have been unable to enter the mine at Pike River on the West Coast of the South Island overnight due to worries over poisonous gas which may be trapped in the shaft.

A police spokeswoman, Kaye Calder, said it was not yet known when rescuers might be able to begin the search for the trapped men.

"There is still concern over the air quality," she said.

5.40am

Pike River Coal has confirmed that the ventilation in its mine, where 27 men are trapped, is not working. But its chairman, John Dow, says everyone inside has a self-rescue device which generates oxygen from their own breath. There are also refuges at regular intervals where miners can get fresh supplies.

View Pike River coal mine in a larger map