Flags at government and public buildings are flying at half-mast in New Zealand on Thursday, as the country commemorates the 10-year anniversary of the deadly Pike River mine explosion.
The explosion at an underground mine near Greymouth, in the West Coast region of the country’s South Island, killed 29 men. Their bodies have never been recovered.
Some families would gather at the mine’s entrance on Thursday for a private service.
The team working underground in the mine as part of a recovery and investigation effort will pause and at the time of the first explosion (0344 GMT), there will be a minute of silence, followed by a roll call of the dead.
A commemorative service was also held at Parliament, in Wellington, on Thursday.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern attended the event, along with representatives of the Pike River families.
“The tragedy of Pike River Mine has been the loss of these men to their loved ones and generations to come. They were never able to lead full lives and their families have suffered because of that. They have also suffered because no-one was held accountable at the time,” Ardern said in a statement.
She said the families had repeatedly told the Government that justice for the men also meant ensuring all New Zealand workplaces were safe.
“That is the legacy they want for their men and one we are committed to fulfilling for them.”
Nobody should die at work, Ardern said.
“We can never make up for the loss their families suffered, but we can honour them by keeping working to improve New Zealand’s woeful record on workplace safety. These men died at work and that just should not happen.”
Families are still fighting to find out what caused the explosion and for those responsible to be held to account.
Council of Trade Unions president Richard Wagstaff said in a statement he remained hopeful the mine re- entry and police investigation would result in accountability.
“We remain resolute in our determination to fight for the right of working people to come home safe every single day,” he said.
“Today we remember the 29 men who were killed at Pike, we send messages of strength and solidarity to their loved ones.”
The mine was sealed following the deadly explosion but it was re-entered in May 2019.
The recovery effort involves gathering evidence along the 2.3-kilometre drift and if possible, recovering any human remains.
The re-entry team was just 104 metres from the roof fall at the end of the drift access tunnel, Minister for Pike River Re-entry Andrew Little said.
New Zealand police were directing the forensic work underground, as part of an ongoing investigation into the tragedy.
“We want to honour those men who died with the work we’ve committed to completing, and by telling all New Zealanders that these sorts of tragedies should never happen again,” Little said.