Saturday, May 06, 2006

Close but not there yet in Australian mine rescue

Now comes the really tricky part of that mine rescue in Tasmania.

From Town waits and prays (Herald Sun, May 7, 2006, reported by Carly Crawford, John Ferguson and Kelvin Healey):

TRAPPED miners Brant Webb and Todd Russell were helping their rescuers early today as freedom moved tantalisingly closer.

The courageous Beaconsfield miners spent six hours stabilising the rock around their cage with special grout designed to help prevent a rock fall as the rescue team edged towards them.

But late last night, Australian Workers Union national secretary Bill Shorten said the rescue of Mr Webb, 37, and Mr Russell, 35, had been further delayed because the rock between them and the rescue team was much harder than anticipated.


As night fell yesterday, rescuers finished tunnelling with massive drilling equipment and then, just before 11pm, miners began using hand tools – diamond-tipped chainsaws and small pneumatic drills – to punch through the crust to reach Mr Webb and Mr Russell.

The rock through which they were boring is believed to be five times tougher than ordinary concrete.

Mr Shorten said: "If you can imagine lying or kneeling in a space just a metre wide, using a hand drill to cut through rock five times harder than concrete – well that's what the rescuers are faced with.

"The simple fact is that the rock is harder than hoped. The men are using knee and elbow pads in 40 degree heat. They want their men home, but it looks like it will take much longer than we had hoped."

Mr Shorten was full of praise for the rescue team.

"These are unassuming men. They have not sought to big-note themselves over the 12 days of the rescue," he said.

"But they are determined they are going to get the men out. I can tell you one thing – I wouldn't want to be the rock between the rescuers and the miners."


I'm going to go out on a limb and predict that a lot of baby boys in Australia will be named Todd and Brant in the near future. These men have done Australia proud with their spirit and sense of humor while trapped. (Well, I'm assuming they won't turn into total jerks when they get out and get mobbed by the media. That would spoil everything, I think. Well, not everything. But it would sour feelings considerably, I think.)

And need I mention I'm in awe of the rescue team? This is not, by any stretch, a usual sort of rescue attempt.

Previous posts: Updates on trapped Tasmanian miners, Trapped miners get food, water, medicine

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