• Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Turkey mine blast death toll crosses 200

BBC Online
A rescued miner surrounded by relatives, medics and other miners cries after being rescued from a coal mine he was in trapped in Soma, a district in Turkey's western province of Manisa May 13, 2014. Photo: Reuters
A rescued miner surrounded by relatives, medics and other miners cries after being rescued from a coal mine he was in trapped in Soma, a district in Turkey's western province of Manisa May 13, 2014. Photo: Reuters

An explosion at a coal mine in western Turkey has left at least 201 workers dead and scores injured, officials say.

Energy Ministry Taner Yildiz said 787 people had been inside the mine at Soma in Manisa province when an electrical fault triggered the blast.

Rescuers worked through the night to try to reach hundreds more miners still trapped underground.

Worried relatives have gathered near the privately owned mine, about 450km (280 miles) west of the capital Ankara.

Yildiz confirmed the latest death toll on Turkish TV and said some 80 people had been injured.

He said that of the workers inside the mine at the time of the accident, only about 360 of them - including those killed - had been accounted for.

Yildiz said that carbon monoxide poisoning had claimed many lives. Oxygen was being pumped into the mine to help those still trapped, he added.

The electrical fault triggered a power cut, making the mine cages unusable.

Those trapped are reported to be 2km (1.2 miles) below the surface and 4km from the mine entrance.

The blast happened at about 12:30 GMT on Tuesday. Initial reports said 17 people had died but the death toll leapt later in the day.

TV footage showed rescuers helping workers from the mine, their faces and hard-hats covered in soot and dust. Some were carried on stretchers to waiting ambulances.

Police were keeping the crowds back to allow emergency services in and out of the area.

Sena Isbiler, a mother of one of the miners, stood on top of piles of wood, anxiously craning her neck to see those being led out of the mine.

"I have been waiting for my son since early afternoon," she told AFP news agency. "I haven't heard anything about him yet."

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has postponed a trip to Albania over the accident and is to visit Soma instead, his office said.

The mine's owners, Soma Komur Isletmeleri, said an investigation was under way but the accident occurred despite the "highest safety measures and constant controls".

"Our main priority is to get our workers out so that they may be reunited with their loved ones," the owners said in a statement.

Lignite coal mining is a major industry in the Soma area, helping to supply a nearby lignite-fired thermal power plant.

Analysts say the safety record of Turkey's coal mines lags behind that of most industrial nations.

The country's worst mining disaster was in 1992, when 270 miners were killed near Zonguldak, on the Black Sea.

Published: 10:32 am Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Last modified: 9:40 pm Wednesday, May 14, 2014

TAGS: Turkey coal mine blast

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