November 20, 2017 / 7:14 AM / a year ago

NZ leader warns re-entry to coal mine to recover bodies could prove too risky

FILE PHOTO: New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern waves to student dancers (not pictured) upon her arrival to attend the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit and related meetings in Clark, Pampanga, northern Philippines November 12, 2017. REUTERS/Erik De Castro

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Efforts to recover the bodies of 29 men entombed in a coal mine disaster in New Zealand seven years ago could be jeopardised over safety concerns, the country’s newly-elected Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern said on Monday.

Ardern made a pre-election promise to create a plan within 100 days to reunite families with the remains of the lost men.

Zealand has established a special agency to study ways to re-enter the Pike River mine by March 2019 and recover the bodies, but Ardern told reporters it could prove too dangerous.

On the afternoon of November 19, 2010, a series of explosions ignited by methane ripped through the mine on the west coast of New Zealand’s South Island, trapping 31 men, two of whom managed to escape.

“There will be risks, our role is to mitigate them as far as possible and to weigh up whether there is an acceptable level of risk,” Ardern said. “We’ve got to do it with all the information… weigh up those risks as we go.”

Reporting by James Regan; Editing by Michael Perry

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