Just a short break from my break to make a small point re some of the commentary around Pike River, best summed up by Ian Wishart:
Mine Blast: Cowardice in NZ Police
I am staggered that police have so far failed to enter the mine because of poisonous gas.
One man with breathing gear could sort this out.
Obviously I spent a bit of time dwelling on this whole tragedy, but I still can’t figure out how one person with breathing gear could effect the rescue of 29 people, and Wishart doesn’t expand upon his point.
The trapped miners were at the top of a two kilometre long tunnel inclining up into the mountain. It took the miners who escaped two hours to walk out, it’s going to take a rescue team carrying equipment and breathing gear at least that long to walk in, and maybe another thirty minutes to an hour to continue on to places where trapped miners could have reasonably be expected to be found. You then have to carry them out on a stretcher, which is a four man job (at least, mountain search and rescue teams use eight/person).
So let’s say four men can effect the rescue of one miner over a six hour period.
To carry out an effective rescue you’re going to be sending maybe ten teams, staggered. So let’s say forty men can rescue ten miners over eight hours with the time/miner increasing as each rescue team is travelling to more remote areas of the mine and taking longer to find each miner.
Now lets say you’re the rescue co-ordinator. You know that (a) the mine is still filling with explosive gas and (b) there is a fire somewhere inside the mine, so (c) each hour there is a non-zero, increasing chance of a second explosion. Your decision is whether it’s prudent to send forty men into that environment for eight hours to possibly effect the rescue of ten men who may or may not be alive, with a total rescue time of around thirty hours for all twenty-nine miners, with the risk of a secondary explosion and a situation in which you now have seventy men trapped/dead, seventy grieving families and so on.