17 dead, hundreds trapped in Turkish coal mine blast

MANISA (CIHAN)- An explosion and fire at a coal mine in western Turkish province of Manisa killed at least 17 people on Tuesday and trapped hundreds of workers underground, Turkish disaster management authority (AFAD) said. At least 20 people were reported alive after being rescued.

The dead workers are believed to have died from suffocation and burns and at least another 20 workers had been taken to hospital. One of the wounded worker’s health situation is critical.

AFAD said in a statement that 11 rescued workers are wounded while eight of them were retrieved without an injury.

Energy Minister Taner YIldIz said a fire, triggered by an electrical fault, erupted and that workers had been killed, but declined to say how many. He said the rescuer are pumping oxygen into the mine.

“It is a serious accident,” YIldIz told reporters before leaving for Soma to oversee the rescue operation. “Our priority is to reach our miner brothers … any figure we give could well be wrong.”

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip ErdoIan said efforts to rescue the trapped workers continue and that they’re expecting “relieving reports” in upcoming hours.

The blast happened during a change in shifts, leading to uncertainty over the exact number of workers still in the mine, labour union officials said.

Nurettin Akul, national head of the Turkish Mineworkers’ Union (Maden-II), told CNN Turk television that an unknown number were still trapped after the blast, which he said happened around 2 km (1.3 miles) below ground.

Mehmet Bahattin AtI, mayor of Soma, a district in Manisa, said 200-300 workers were still inside following the explosion. The head of the local fire service also told a Turkish television that around 300 workers were still trapped, but they could rescue five workers.

Mining accidents are common in Turkey, which is plagued by poor safety conditions.

Turkish President Abdullah Gul ordered Manisa governor to mobilize all resources for the rescue of the trapped workers, while Turkish army assigned a military aircraft to bring a group of experts from northern province of Zonguldak for the rescue operations.

Due to the fire, there is currently no electricity inside the coal mine and the elevator is not working. Authorities fear that the workers could be short of oxygen and constantly pump fresh air inside the mine filled with thick smoke.

‘Work safety in place’

SOMA Kmur IIletmeleri A.I., which owns the mine, confirmed that a number of its workers were killed but did not say how many. It said the accident occurred despite “highest safety measures and constant controls” and an investigation was being launched.

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

Labor and Social Security Ministry also released a statement on Tuesday, saying that the mining company was inspected four times in the past two years. It added that the mining company was inspected two months ago last time and everything was in line with work safety regulations.

AK Party blocked Soma mine inspection proposal

Lawmaker with main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) zgur zel told media that the ruling party rejected a parliamentary inquiry proposal regarding coal mines work safety in Soma 20 days ago.

zel said the proposal carried the signature of 60 lawmakers and that it asked to focus on coal mine accidents in Soma. He noted that the proposal also had the backing of opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and Peace and Democracy Party (BDP). “It was obvious that we would go through these days,” zel said.

SOURCE: CIHAN

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