At least 201 dead, 80 injured in Turkish coal mine blast (UPDATE)

MANISA (CIHAN)-

Rescuers struggled to reach more than 200 miners trapped underground early Wednesday after an explosion and fire at a coal mine in western Turkey killed at least 201 workers, authorities said, in one of the worst mining disasters in Turkish history.

Energy Minister Taner YIldIz said 787 people were inside the coal mine in Soma, some 250 kilometers (155 miles) south of Istanbul, at the time of the accident and 363 of them had been rescued so far.

At least 80 miners were injured, including four who were in serious condition, YIldIz told reporters in Soma, as he oversaw the rescue operation involving more than 400 rescuers.

The accident occurred when the workers were preparing for a shift change, officials said, which likely raised the casualty toll because there were more miners inside the mine than usual.

YIldIz said the deaths were caused by carbon monoxide poisoning and feared the death toll could end up much higher than the latest count of 201 workers.

The rescue effort is “reaching a critical stage,” YIldIz said, with more deaths likely as time passes.

Earlier, the minister said the rescue operations were hindered because the mine had not completely been cleared of gas.

Authorities say the disaster followed an explosion and fire caused by a power distribution unit.

Nurettin Akul, a mining trade union leader, told HaberTurk television that Turkey was likely facing its worst mining accident ever.

“Time is working against us. We fear that the numbers could rise further,” YIldIz said. “We have to finish this (rescue operation) by dawn. I have to say that our pain, our trouble could increase.”

Earlier YIldIz said some of the workers were 420 meters (460 yards) deep inside the mine. News reports said the workers could not use lifts to get out of the mine because the explosion had caused a power cut.

Television footage showed people cheering and applauding as some trapped workers emerged out of the mine, helped by rescuers, their faces and hard-hats covered in soot. One wiped away tears on his jacket, another smiled, waved and flashed a “thumbs up” sign at onlookers.

Dozens of ambulances ferried back and forth bodies and the injured extracted from the mine and rescue workers were massed at the entrance of the mine on a hill side. Family members at the scene pleaded for news of their loved ones.

One woman threw herself on the ground, crying after hearing about the death of a loved one, HaberTurk television showed. There were tears of joy for another who told the station she had just spoken by telephone to a missing relative.

Police set up fences and stood guard around Soma state hospital to keep the crowds away.

Authorities had earlier said that the blast left between 200 to 300 miners underground and made arrangements to set up a cold storage facility to hold the corpses of miners recovered from the site.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip ErdoIan postponed a one-day visit to Albania scheduled for Wednesday and planned to visit Soma instead.

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.

‘Work safety in place’

SOMA Kmur IIletmeleri A.I., which owns the mine, said the accident occurred despite the “highest safety measures and constant controls” and added that 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.

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

Turkey’s worst mining disaster was a 1992 gas explosion that killed 263 workers near the Black Sea port of Zonguldak.

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

Related Post
At least eleven people were killed and six others injured in a traffic accident in
Moscow: 37-year-old Azerbaijani criminal “authority” was shot in a cafe “Lesnaya skazka”, Voronezh city of
Owner of famous clothing brand Crispino Ali Riza Gultekin was exposed to an armed attack