At least 151 dead, 76 injured in Turkish coal mine blast

BALIKESIR (CIHAN)- An explosion and fire at a coal mine in western Turkish province of Manisa killed at least 151 people on Tuesday and injured dozens of workers underground, Turkish Energy Minister Taner YIldIz said.

The dead workers are believed to have died from suffocation and burns and dozens of workers had been taken to hospital.

In his third official statement following the explosion, YIldIz said there were 787 workers inside the coal mine during the explosion. He put the number of injured workers at 76. He added that the death toll could rise.

In his first statement, YIldIz said a fire, triggered by an electrical fault, erupted and that workers had been killed. He said the rescuer were 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.

ErdoIan cancelled a day trip to Albania originally scheduled for Wednesday and instead was going to head to the disaster site.

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

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

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.

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. CIHAN

SOURCE: CIHAN

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