3 workers killed, up to 300 trapped deep inside coal mine

KuTAHYA (CIHAN)- A fire in a coal mine in western Turkish province of Manisa on Tuesday killed three workers and trapped an unknown number, Muzaffer YurttaI, a lawmaker with the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) told broadcaster CNN Turk, retracting his earlier statement that 20 bodies had been retrieved.

The dead workers are believed to have died from suffocation and burns and at least another 30 workers had been taken to hospital. YurttaI said one of the wounded worker’s health situation is critical.

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.”

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.


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