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Miners vigil -

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Miners vigil

Broadcast: 25/11/2010

Reporter: Tracy Bowden

As the grim reality of New Zealand's worst mining disaster sets in, questions are now being asked
about what went wrong.


TRACY BOWDEN, PRESENTER: As the grim reality of New Zealand's worst mining disaster sets in,
questions are now being asked about what went wrong.

Today the nation's Prime Minister John Key met grieving families in the small town of Greymouth,
saying no stone would be left unturned to find the cause of the explosion.

Local churches have become gathering points for community members.

Anglican archdeacon Robin Kingston has played a central role in supporting those affected by the
tragedy and I spoke to him a short time ago in Greymouth.

Archdeacon, you officiated at last night's prayer vigil. That must have been just the start of a
long grieving process for this community?

ROBIN KINGSTON, HOLY TRINITY ANGLICAN CHURCH: Absolutely. I was thrilled to have brave people who
are prepared to come to a service raw, with raw emotions having just heard the news about two hours
before. That's an incredible sign of courage that's here on the coast.

TRACY BOWDEN: And what would you say is the atmosphere in the town today?

ROBIN KINGSTON: Yesterday it was painful raw emotion, now people are beginning to get over the
shock and they're now feeling the pain and the grief of what's happened. We're not sure what's
going to happen at the vigil tonight. That's a real unknown. There'll either be about 50 people
there or 500, but I doubt it'll be much in between. So, if there's 500, it means there's a lot of
very brave people willing to get together to share their grief, which is the very best way of
working through grief.

TRACY BOWDEN: What do you think these families need most now?

ROBIN KINGSTON: I'm not sure what the families need. I know what the community needs and that's
really what I'm focusing on. The families are never going to be satisfied until they've got the
actual funeral service and that's why they are keen to see the bodies brought out, they've got
their sons and husbands and friends back home and then they can have individual funeral services
that will treasure and celebrate the life of the ones who have died.

TRACY BOWDEN: Do you think the families have considered it might be months before the bodies can be
retrieved or it may not be possible at all?

ROBIN KINGSTON: We're not going down that path at all and we're working positively towards seeing
their bodies recovered and that's what everything is being moved towards. And we won't give any
hope up on that at this stage.

TRACY BOWDEN: During the rescue operation, there was some criticism. Do you think people will
always wonder if an opportunity was missed in the early hours after the explosion?

ROBIN KINGSTON: All we can say is with the very best evidence that we had, it was an explosive
potential and the fact that it actually did explode again showed beyond any doubt that it was a
dangerous situation. People can speculate that two hours immediately afterwards it might have been
safe. OK, they mighta said two hours after this latest explosion it might have been safe, but there
was nothing in any of the readings to indicate that in fact everything showed that it was as
dangerous as it was before the explosion. It did not use up much of the oxygen. It still kept to an
explosive combustion area.

TRACY BOWDEN: At the moment the emotional impact is the focus, but this region relies on the mine,
so there'll be a financial impact too, not just on workers, but also other businesses?

ROBIN KINGSTON: Absolutely. It will have - it has the potential for a major impact on this
community. We are keen to see mining continue. We have some of the safest mines. Just because we've
had a tragedy does not mean that it was a unsafe environment. What it means is that something
catastrophic happened that we don't understand or know about at the moment that was unforeseen and
we need to find out what that is before we can really make good progress. But the rest of the
mining here will still continue on and miners will still go down and their wives and girlfriends
will be more nervous than they were before and that's just part of being on the coast: that the
women often take the pain and the men do the courageous bits.

TRACY BOWDEN: Do you expect this tragedy will ultimately make a close-knit community even closer?

ROBIN KINGSTON: I would believe so and there's lots of evidence of that at the moment. We'll see
how that is when it comes to the community remembrance service. If there's large numbers present,
as I anticipate there will be, that will show you the size of the commitment of the community as a

TRACY BOWDEN: Well we wish you all the best and thank you very much for speaking to us, archdeacon.