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New Zealand holds national memorial service for 29 dead mine workers

12-02-2010 13:50 BJT

WELLINGTON, Dec. 2 (Xinhua) -- Thousands of New Zealanders gathered at Omoto racecourse at South Island West Bnak town of Greymouth on Thursday for the service of remembrance for the 29 men who died in the Pike River Coal mine disaster.

The men died in explosions at the West Coast mine on Nov. 19.

Maori elders from Ngati Waewae, who have held prayers at the mine site for the safety of recovery teams, opened the service on Thursday with a prayer.

Before the crowd are 29 miners' helmets on 29 tables.

New Zealand stood in silence for two minutes at 02:00 p.m. local time, in memory of the 29 dead men with Mayor Tony Kokshoorn telling mourners shortly afterward that West Coasters were living though "our darkest days".

An estimated 11,000 crammed into the racecourse stood to recall men who walked among them until a blast rocked the Pike River coal mine on Nov. 19.

And thousands across the country went quiet, with television and radio stations muting their broadcasts, and other New Zealanders marking the moment in their own way.

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