| Updated at: 1039 PST, Wednesday, November 24, 2010|
GREYMOUTH: All 29 miners trapped underground in a New Zealand mine for five days are believed to be dead following a second explosion in the Pike River Coal mine, police said on Wednesday.
"It is our belief that no one has survived and everyone will have perished. This is one of the most tragic things I have had to do as a police officer," police superintendent Gary Knowles told reporters.
The miners were trapped in the 2.3 km (1.4 mile) main tunnel last Friday night when methane gas caused a massive explosion in the mountain on New Zealand's south island.
Deadly toxic gas and fears of further explosions stopped rescuers entering the mine, despite desperate pleas by the miners' relatives that rescue teams enter the mine to find their husbands and sons.
Rescuers used robots and electronic devices to explore for life in the mine, but there were no signs that any survived the initial blast.
On Wednesday morning rescuers said there was little chance any of the miners were still alive, but continued to monitor toxic gas levels hoping the air would clear enough for rescue teams to enter the mine.
A few hours later a massive explosion occured.
"The cause was the build up over the last six days of the gases again. A lethal mixture ignited the entire mine," said local mayor Tony Kokshoorn.
"It was a far larger (explosion) than the first one and at that point it was the end of everyone. This is the west coast's darkest hour," said Kokshoorn.