tv BBC World News PBS November 24, 2010 12:30am-1:00am PST
>> "bbc world news" is presented by kcet, los angeles. funding for this presentation is made possible by the freeman foundation of new york, stowe, vermont, and honolulu, newman's own foundation, the john d. and catherine t. macarthur foundation, and union bank. >> union bank has put its financial strength to work for a wide range of companies, from small businesses to major corporations. what can we do for you?
>> and now, "bbc world news." >> the u.s. and south korean presidents agree to stand shoulder to shoulder after the crisis sparked by north korea's artillery attack on south korean territory. >> we strongly affirm our commitment to defend south korea as part of that alliance. >> taking on the taliban. escalating violence in afghanistan. a second robot is dispatched to the new zealand coal mine where 29 men are trapped as high levels of gas are detected. welcome to bbc news, broadcasting to viewers on pbs in america and around the globe. coming up later on for you, a note for your social diary. britain's newest royal couple choose april 29 at westminster abbey for their wedding. and the royal shakespeare theater gets a facelift, but is it as you like it or much ado
about nothing. president obama and his south korean counterpart have agreed to hold combined military exercises in the coming days in response to tuesday's north korean artillery attack on south korean territory. president obama says the united states stands shoulder to shoulder with its allies. north korea is accused of firing dozens of artillery shells on an island near the disputed frontier of the two countries, killing two people. >> from nowhere, the mid afternoon calm was shattered.
people run for cover. dozens of north korean shells fired into a south korean village. the korean war was fought 50 years ago, but memories among those who saw that conflict have been stirred by today's images of burning homes and destruction. south korea moved fast to evacuate over 200 of more than 1,000 civilians from yeonpyeong island after its own military fired back and scrambled fighter jets. >> i was lying down and watching television and i heard the bang, bang! i thought that i will die when i stepped out of the house. >> fires were everywhere and it was chaotic. i tried calling my wife at home but i could just hear "darling," and the phone went dead. >> as the artillery was being fought, south korea's president was in a fortified bunker near his office.
since coming to power, he's taken a tougher line with north korea. >> i think it's a duty of the army to respond with action. we can never tolerate unconditional attacks against civilians. >> and this evening on the mainland, fire engines and supplies dispatched to reinforce the southern presence on the island where power supplies were cut by the shelling. north korea is 40-odd kilometers from here to south capital, seoul. they know it could pulverize this prosperous city within hours but it's always believed that north and south have as much to lose from a conflict. the beneath the insecurity is the sense that north korea is becoming more reckless and more provocative. on north korean television, they were showing kim jong il bizarrely out and about visiting a fish farm.
many in the south feel he's ailing, trying to engineer a succession of power to his son, his country seeking isolation of the impoverished. north korea blamed the south for firing first and promised merciless military actions if southern forces dare to intrude on its territory. in all of today's artillery fire, lasted an hour or so, long enough to ratchet tensions and sow fears here. no one knows what exactly is driving north korea down this dangerous path. >> we'll return to that news in a few moments. first, we have breaking news from new zealand. this is, according to police there, and according to the a.p. news agency, says the police have said there's been a second blast inside the new zealand mine where 29 workers are missing and that no one could have survived. the police superintendent, gary
knolls, said the second explosion occurred on wednesday afternoon. potentially the explosion of methane gas that has been swirling inside the mine since the initial blast. we hope to bring you more background on the latest news about a second blast in that new zealand mine. that said, we'll go back to the first part of the program and the first news. in an interview with barbara walters of abc news, president obama gave his reaction to the north and south korean incident. >> isn't an attack on south korea an attack on the u.s.? >> south korea is our ally. it has been since the korean war, and we strongly affirm our commitment to defend south korea as part of that alliance. >> will we perhaps send warships or would you put u.s. troops on
alert? >> i'm not going to speculate on military actions at this point. i want to consult with president lee. >> japan's prime minister has called on china to use its influence on north korea to help ease tensions. the bam bard. said to be a horrible act of barbarism. considering how serious the attack is and what options are open to the international community is our world affairs editor. >> any incident like this is pretty dangerous, of course, but north korea is such a weird place that things aren't necessarily what they appear to be. there seems to be a political battle going on inside the north korean leadership and loosing off a few dozen artillery rounds at the south may well be a sign
that the battle is hotting up. in the strange outdated atmosphere of the north, armed forces parade like marionettes, probably only half a dozen or so people at the top of the leadership really know exactly what's going on. but it seems pretty likely that it's got something to do with the leader, kim jong il, and his state of health. not exactly very steady on his feet. he's trying to shoehorn in his son, kim jong un, as his successor. kim jong un's only experience of the real world is his years at a swiss boarding school. are the kims, father and son, trying to show toughness by blasting at south korea, or the military trying to force the pace? this isn't, in fact, the most serious incident in recent months. in march, the south korean naval ship was sunk by a miscellaneous
torpedo killing many sailors. an independent investigation believed it had to do with north korea. south korea didn't retaliate. maybe that persuaded the north that it can get away with just about anything. this time, too, it's clear that the americans don't want retaliation, either. >> everybody involved is stunned by north korea's provocative actions. i believe the president referred to it as outrageous. we're not going to respond willy-nilly. >> one of the big worries is that north korea is a nuclear power. but, presumably by coincidence, the north koreans have just allowed a senior american scientist to see their latest high-grade uranium enrichment facility. >> i was stunned to see what looked like hundreds and hundreds of centrifuges lined
up, two each, at three different locations. it was just stunning. >> so, north korea's doing a lot of stunning at present, and china, which has strongly backed kim jong il, seems to be pretty embarrassed by what's going on. the north korean tail seems to be wagging the dog. >> there's a persistent theory that in spite of everything, what north korea really wants is a better relationship with the south and with the americans, but it doesn't want to look weak. still, if that's the reason for this attack and it's all getting mixed up with top-level politics in the north, it's a thoroughly dangerous way of doing business. >> let's just bring you that breaking news once again and a little bit more detail, this time from routers news agency. saying that all 29 miners trapped underground in this new zealand mine for five days now
are believed to be dead following a second explosion in the pike river coal mine. this is according to police there. they're going on to say, "it is our belief that no one has survived and everyone will have perished. this is one of the most traumatic things i have had to do as a police officer, according to gary knowles, the police superintendent in the area. we're expecting a news conference in about 15 minutes or so from graymouth, stay with us for that, if you can. we're also hoping to speak with our correspondent in new zealand, phil mercer, collecting more information for us at the moment. this breaking news coming in to us from new zealand. all 29 miners have been trapped underground there in that mine for five days now since the explosion on friday are believed to be dead following a second
explosion which took place on wednesday afternoon in the pike river coal mine, and, as i said, gary knowles, the police superintendent there, said this is one of the most tragic things i've had to do as a police officer. so more detail on that, then, in about 15 minutes, we hope, with a news conference, live from graymouth. now, let's continue with other news. the insurgency in afghanistan is growing in strength and levels of violence have reached new highs in recent months. that's the latest analysis provided by military experts for the u.s. department of defense in what is a critical year for the nato mission. they also say iran is still supporting the taliban and that insurgent bases along the pakistan border are still a problem. our reporter from washington. >> the report says that combat
levels of violence in afghanistan is up 300%. the taliban, it says, is resilient, adaptable and sophisticated. it says the insurgency continues to draw support from iran and that safe havens along the border with pakistan remain a security issue. perhaps most troubling for washington is the observation that, while the taliban is unpopular, it draws strength from the belief among afghans that nato forces will soon leave the country, clearing the way for a taliban victory. the americans say they haven't made a decision on ending combat in afghanistan. the transfer of power with the withdrawal of nato forces are what leaders spoke about in their summit last weekend.
the report speaks of modest gains in security, but overall, there's not much to cheer the obama administration and its allies. >> now, more on this breaking news coming in to us from new zealand. let's go live now to the police station in graymouth in new zealand where phil mercer is waiting to talk to us. phil, bring us up to the speed, will you, with what the police have been saying? >> sadly, the authorities here in new zealand say that there's no chance of survival for these 29 men missing now for more than five days after a second blast at the pike river coal mine, that news coming through in the last few minutes from the man in charge of the rescue effort, superintendent gary knowles. it's now quite clear that there will be no rescue, only now, the recovery of 29 bodies. those men mostly from new zealand, but with two others
from the united kingdom, australia, and south africa. so the ripples of this tragedy, one of new zealand's worst ever mine disasters, will stretch far and wide. this is obviously a devastating moment for the families, agonizing days of waiting, sadly ending in tragedy here. >> phil, there was always, as we know, a great concern about the gas which was in this mine and clearly the authorities most worried about even getting the rescue operation underway until they managed somehow to clear that gas. but that, now, has obviously proved to be correct given the second explosion. >> there's always the fear that that poisonous and potentially combustible cocktail of high levels of carbon monoxide and methane were making it impossible for rescue teams to go in. there was a great deal of anger and frustration with family
members of the 29 dead miners because they felt that urgent action was needed and they believed that the rescue teams should have been allowed in a lot earlier. the authorities had said all the way through this that it was simply too unsafe, simply too unstable within the pike river mine to let more lives be at risk by letting rescue teams go into an area that was contaminated by so much poisonous and potentially explosive gases. so we're not quite sure what happens now, whether the bodies will be recovered or whether the mine will simply be sealed up and left forever. those are perhaps questions for another day. but just to reiterate the news from new zealand, south island, 29 men missing in a gas explosion at a coaliery near the town of graymouth in the south islands. according to police, no chance of survival after a second
underground blast. >> i spoke to the new zealand prime minister on saturday night here, he was saying that gas is a serious problem in new zealand mines. is this something, now, would you expect that will be investigated seriously in future mining that goes on? >> i'd imagine the investigations and the official inquiries, and there are likely to be many, will go on for months if not years. generally speaking, new zealand has a good safety record when it comes to its mining activities. the big difference between this mining accident and the one in chile, for example, those 33 miners rescued in early october in south america, the big difference, the gold and copper facilities in south america don't give out the same noxious, poisonous gases as coal mines do. that's a fundamental difference. it is a very, very risky occupation. and today, here in new zealand,
south island, we've witnessed the extreme dangers that miners all over the world who dig for coal do put their lives at risk every time they go to work. >> we're hearing that a news conference is being planned. do you have any more background, more detail on that, phil? >> all the way through this tragedy, right from the first explosion on friday, the police and the emergency services have firstly kept in very close contact with the 29 families involved and also regular updates for the media, as well, as we spoke about before. most of the men are from new zealand. others from south africa, australia and the united kingdom. so many people around the world keeping close tabs on the story. sadly, tragically, this has ended in utter disaster for this close-knit community. this is a small community on the
coast that prides itself on being a no-nonsense, hard-bitten, hard-working sort of place. but one can only imagine the agony of the families and the effect on this close-knit mining community that has obviously suffered so, so badly. >> phil, we'll leave there. i know you need to get to the news conference. phil mercer for the bbc reporting live for us from graymouth. if you're just joining us at this point at bbc news, let me just go over the latest information that we're getting from new zealand. hearing from the police there that all 29 miners have been trapped underground in this new zealand mine for five days since that first explosion on friday are now believed to be dead. this news comes following a second explosion in the pike river coal mine on wednesday afternoon. the police there are saying that it is our belief that no one has
survived and everyone will have perished. gary knowles, the police superintendent at graymouth there, says that it is, in fact, one of the most tragic things i've had to do as a police officer. potentially explosive methane gas, of course, has been swirling in the pike river mine since that blast on friday and rescuers have been kept from entering the mine for fear of danger to any rescue operation. let's bring in our correspondent joining me in the studio now with more background you've been checking on. >> as you're saying, the miners have been trapped for a few days now and there's been a lot of difficulty about what to do to try to get the men out. we've heard various different comments from the police and the rescue teams there saying it's just not been safe to go down and get these people out. they've been trying to send robots and probes down, trying to test the chemicals and gases that might be down there and they've been saying it hasn't been safe to go in and now we're
hearing that it's believed all of the miners are now dead. >> in terms of the gases, i mean, that was, as you say, the very reason that a rescue was just impossible. they had to make sure that it was safe to go anywhere near that mine. >> that's right. and this morning they were saying that the gas levels were not acceptable for that risk to be taken. they were saying there was very little oxygen from the tests they've been doing so they said it wasn't safe to go in. as you can imagine, this has been extremely frustrating for the families and the people that work with these miners. they've been waiting for something to happen for a number of days now, extremely frustrated that nothing has happened. but it's not been safe to go in there and unfortunately it does look like a very sad ending to the story. >> they put down the robots, haven't they, but there was a problem with the second one, wasn't there, that went down? >> that's right. they have one robot and the second one came and we heard there were technical problems
with that hindering the operation. so, clearly, this has been a difficult and complex operation, but with what happened in chile and in china, some people hoped there would be a happy ending and all of the miners would be rescued safely. it doesn't look as though it will be that way at the moment. >> the new zealand prime minister was telling us -- of course, it is very different dealing with a gold mine. there is a news conference underway here. >> the mine was extremely severe. based on the experience i've been given with the men who were presence, based on the rescue teams that are with me, it is our belief that no one has survived. this is one of the most tragic things i've had to do as a police officer. thank you very much. >> we believe that was probably a recording from just a little while ago of the police explaining this news that's just coming in to us that they
believe all these 29 miners in the mine down there at graymouth have probably perished now because of a second explosion that's taken place. damon, we were just saying that the new zealand prime minister was making it clear, there's a big difference between that chilean mine, the gold mine, and this coal mine. >> yes, very much so. they were obviously different circumstances and different makeup of these mines and also, which has also led to the fears of the chemicals building up in there, and this is why the operation has been so complex and why they've been very keen to make sure that they do all of these tests, get all of these samples, to make sure before they send anyone else in, it was safe. a very different set of circumstances and it looks as though a very different ending to this, as well. >> and the families have been very frustrated, haven't they,
understandably, since friday, wanting something to happen and wanting the rescue operation to get underway. >> you imagine if this is your son or brother or father trapped deep underground for all these days and from their points of views, they probably thought there was a lack of action there, and we're not seeing anybody brought down to the mine and we're not seeing the men taken out, what is earth is going to? but they wanted to make sure everything was right before they went down there. but extremely frustrating for the families and this is extremely sad news for them this morning if they are all now dead. >> we know that mining is an incredibly dangerous occupation and certainly when you're dealing with coal and therefore those gases you've just been talking about, it's a serious concern, isn't it? >> yes. and i think before the accident happened in chile and the recent incident in china, they were the first two mining incidents to happen in the world by any
means. there have been a number of different incidents and accidents that have happened. it is a dangerous industry. but people in these countries want to do this job. it's their livelihood, they enjoy it. when the miners came out of the chile mine, some were saying, they wanted to go back again. >> indeed. certainly as the prime minister said, as far as new zealand, their record is very good, the safety record is excellent, in fact. >> that's right. this is very rare and something that really is unique, i think, for new zealand. this is why it's been so complex, this operation, to try and bring these men out, because, i think in some ways, this is a first for them. but they have been keen to get these men out as much as everybody else has been, the relatives and families, but they've been wanting to do everything right and get the operation right and unfortunately they haven't been able to get into this mine, get these men out and now we're hearing these men all now feared dead. >> we're expecting a news conference to happen at any
minute, in fact, maybe in the next five minutes or so. that was something we were hearing, but we'll obviously stay on air should that happen. with me is damon embling from the bbc here. just go over, for any viewers who are joining us, the latest information from new zealand. >> we're hearing there has been a second explosion in this mine at graymouth in new zealand's south island. 29 miners have been trapped there since last friday. rescue efforts have been ongoing since then, various different tests carried out to sample the air that's deep underground, to test the chemicals. also, robots have been used with limited success. there have been problems with that. but we are now hearing that this second explosion has happened, the 29 men that are still trapped there, are now feared dead. >> and clearly this rescue operation has closed, now. they'll no doubt move into recovery mode. >> that's right. but to recover the bodies.
they still, obviously, need to be satisfied that it's safe for people to go down there. the last thing they want to do. >> go to bbc.com/news to experience the in-depth expert reporting of "bbc world news" online. >> funding was made possible by the freeman foundation of new york, stowe, vermont, and honolulu, newman's own foundation, the john d. and catherine t. macarthur foundation, and union bank.
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