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Hope fades at NZ mine as gas prevents rescue

November 22, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
Hope appears to be fading that 29 miners trapped underground in New Zealand will be found alive.Rescuers and police acknowledged for the first time that the men may not have survived the massive explosion that ripped through the mine on Friday.

Toxic gases have prevented rescuers from entering the mine and there has been no contact with the missing men. Two workers were able to stumble out of the mine within hours of the explosion.

Monday, drilling of a small shaft into the mine to test dangerous gas levels is expected to be completed.

Experts are preparing a military robot to enter the mine and take pictures, once the air quality question is resolved. Built up methane gas is the suspected cause of the explosion, though officials said that may not be confirmed for days.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.