New Zealand mine fire traps 15; rescuers on way

AP News
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Posted: Jul 16, 2012 7:39 PM
New Zealand mine fire traps 15; rescuers on way

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — Mine officials say rescuers are on their way to the last 15 miners trapped underground in a New Zealand gold mine following a fire.

A truck engine caught fire early Tuesday at the mine in the North Island town of Waihi. Mine officials said smoke could be seen coming from the mine's vent shaft.

Initially, 28 men were trapped underground but by mid-morning, 13 had been rescued.

Linda Willoughby, a spokeswoman for mine operator Newmont Waihi Gold, said mine officials have been in telephone contact with all the remaining men and all are safe. She said that unlike some coal mines that contain volatile methane gas, the hardrock mine faces no threat of an explosion.

Willoughby said the men followed their training after the fire by taking refuge in three separate underground safety chambers. Two of those chambers held the 13 men who were rescued earlier while the third chamber held the 15 men.

Willoughby said the fire was put out and rescuers were on their way to the third chamber to evacuate the remaining men.