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News Wrap: Pilots Excused From TSA Patdowns, Body Scans

November 19, 2010 at 5:50 PM EDT
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KWAME HOLMAN: Airline pilots in the U.S. will be excused from those full-body scans and pat-downs at airports, effective immediately. The main pilots union said today the Transportation Security Administration has agreed to the change. Pilots now will be allowed to present two photo I.D.s to be checked against a secure database.

A gas explosion rocked New Zealand’s largest coal mine today, leaving 29 miners trapped. It happened at the Pike River mine in a mountainous area on the country’s South Island.

We have a report narrated by Will Mott of Independent Television News.

WILL MOTT: Its power even reached the surface. The explosion at the Pike River mine was so strong, it damaged this ventilation shaft and blackened the hillside with soot.

TONY KOKSHOORN, local mayor: All I can say is that I have been up there. The mine’s rescue crews are working frantically at the moment. They are up there. They are doing everything they can. It is a waiting game. They’re making sure that the mine is safe to go down.

WILL MOTT: Pike River’s entrance is in a valley, and the main mine shaft goes upwards for 2.5 kilometers to meet the Brunner coal seam, which is only 150 meters below the surface.

There’s a major fault in the area and lots of secondary faults, which allows methane to spread through the mine. And it was this buildup of gas which caused the explosion. About 30 people, including at least one British citizen, were inside. Whether they all survived is not yet known, but only a handful have made it out.

PETER WHITTALL, chief executive, Pike River Coal Mine: We have had our afternoon shift underground, and we have had communications with a couple of those — a couple of the employees. And we have had two men return to the surface, and they’re currently being interviewed, and trying to determine the nature and the full extent of the incident.

WILL MOTT: Rescue teams have arrived, but they fear it’s still unsafe, meaning it could be days before anybody else is found. Relatives are gathering in a welfare center nearby, and, after the success in Chile, they know not to give up hope.

KWAME HOLMAN: Thirty-three men were rescued last month from that mine in Chile, after spending 69 days trapped underground.

The Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince was tense again today. Rioters attacked U.N. peacekeepers there Thursday. Some Haitians blame U.N. soldiers from Nepal for sparking an unprecedented outbreak of cholera. The disease has killed more than 1,100 people in recent weeks.

Meanwhile, the relief group Doctors Without Borders set up a makeshift clinic in the northern city of Cap-Haitien. Rioting erupted there earlier in the week, but since has calmed.

American Indians and black farmers have cleared a major hurdle to winning claims for federal compensation. The Senate today approved $4.6 billion to settle class-action lawsuits. Indian landowners claimed they were swindled out of royalties by the Interior Department. Black farmers accused the Agriculture Department of bias. The bill is expected to win a final House vote next month.

Wall Street finished the week with mixed results. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 22 points today to close at 11203. The Nasdaq rose three points to close at 2518. For the week, the Dow gained just a fraction of a percent; the Nasdaq fell a fraction.

Those are some of the day’s major stories.