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New Zealand Miners Presumed Dead After Second Blast

Red Cross volunteers leave a candlelight vigil following a second explosion at the Pike River Coal Mines in Greymouth, New Zealand, Nov. 24, 2010.

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key has declared Thursday a national day of mourning after a second blast at the Pike River coal mine ended hope of rescuing 29 trapped miners.

The prime minister on Wednesday said the news was "an agonizing blow."

Police said Wednesday's methane gas explosion was as severe as the first one on Friday that trapped the men in an underground mine shaft on the west coast of New Zealand's South Island. Local police superintendent Gary Knowles said Wednesday that there was no chance the miners had survived the second blast.

Attempts to contact the miners failed, and rescue attempts were delayed for days because of continued high gas levels in the mine.

Family members, hoping to hear Wednesday that a rescue mission had started, shouted out their anger and frustration when told of the second explosion and the near-certainty that their loved ones were dead.

The miners include several British and Australian citizens ranging in age from 17 to 62. It was never clear if they had survived the first blast.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.