Trapped New Zealand Miners Declared Dead

A sad update to a story from last week: Rescue officials in New Zealand have declared the 29 miners trapped by a gas explosion on Friday to be dead, following a second “equally horrific” blast, as CNN reports.

The Prime Minister of New Zealand, John Key, declared the event “a national tragedy… a tragedy for the mens’ families, for their work mates and friends, for their community and our nation.  New Zealand is a small country – a country where we are our brother’s keeper.  So to lose this many brothers at once strikes an agonizing blow.”

Queen Elizabeth sent a message of condolences to the Prime Minister yesterday, expressing her thanks and deep appreciation for the efforts of rescue workers.  “I am deeply saddened by today’s news that there is now no hope for the men trapped in the Pike River mine,” said the Queen, according to a statement from Buckingham Palace.

As the second blast demonstrates, rescue efforts were hindered by the presence of deadly gas in the mine.  The only evidence of the trapped miners discovered to date was one of their helmets, videotaped by a military robot.  Officials say efforts to recover the miners’ remains will continue.