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DATE PUBLISHED: 2014/5/14 - 02:39:00
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Death toll soars in Turkey coal mine collapse
Death toll soars in Turkey coal mine collapse

The death toll from an explosion and fire at a coal mine in western Turkey is now 201, Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said on Wednesday.

Yildiz added that some 780 people were working inside at the time of the accident in the coal mine in Soma, some 250 kilometers (155.35 miles) from Istanbul, the Associated Press reported.

He said 76 mine workers were injured and one of them was in serious condition.

It was not immediately clear how many more miners were still trapped in the coal mine in the town of Soma.

Fire officials were desperately trying to pump clean air into the mine shaft for those who remain trapped some two kilometers below the surface and four kilometers from the entrance.

The mine collapse in Soma district was caused by an explosion following an electric fault, a regional governor told NTV.

Local media said there were 580 people trapped in the mine at the time of the explosion but many had escaped.

Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan cancelled a day trip to Albania, scheduled for Wednesday, and would instead go to the site of the disaster, sources in his office said.

  “Rescue efforts for our brothers in the mine are ongoing... God willing, in the coming hours, I hope to receive uplifting news,” Erdogan said during a speech at a ceremony in the capital Ankara, before the extent of the disaster became clear.


Because the explosion took place during a change in shifts, there was uncertainty over the exact number of miners still inside, but AFAD put the figure at more than 200.

“Fresh air, oxygen is being pumped into the mine. This is the most important thing for our workers down there,” Energy Minister Taner Yildiz told reporters, on his way to Manisa.

“We are facing carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide poisoning... We have to get our friends out of there swiftly.”

At least eight people were brought out alive. Television footage showed rescued miners reunited with tearful relatives.

But government officials feared the death toll might be on the rise. “Unfortunately, we could see a grimmer picture. Looks like it will be a very tough night. The death toll may rise but the rescue teams are working hard,” one official said.

Turkey’s worst mining accident was in 1992, when a gas explosion killed 263 workers in the Black Sea province of Zonguldak. The country has a poor health and safety record in mining, particularly coal.

In May 2010, another gas explosion killed 30 miners, again in Zonguldak province.

 

 

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