As day five closed a drill hole into the heart of the area provided the growing rescue team with critical information about the level of methane and other toxic material while an NZ army robot was being prepared to go downstairs and a sophisticated American robot was being flown in.

However, this evening NZ time Pike River Coal Ltd chief executive Peter Whittall said a camera probe into a targeted "fresh air" station not only did not show any evidence of miners but also showed there was damage there from the blast.

Earlier Whittall showed relatives of the miners a video of the Pike River mine portal that recorded the severe methane explosion - a reality hit for some, but an understanding from others who were or had been in the coal mining business.

Driving the now diminishing hope is the fact all miners had respirators that had up to an hour's use that would have allowed those not in the direct line of the explosion to get to one of the refuges which could sustain them for several days.

What is preventing a simple rescue attempt is the high risk of rescues also being imperilled by poisonous gases but more importantly the chance of a second explosion that would end any hope for the trapped miners.

Among those spending time on the surface facilities have been Prime Minister John Key, Energy & Resources Minister Gerry Brownlee, a host of mine rescue specialists from throughout NZ, and from Australia. Non-coal mining rescue groups have also offered assistance.


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