Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Several killed, hundreds trapped after Turkey mine explosion

At least 17 people have been killed after an explosion and fire at a coal mine in western Turkey, officials say.

Hundreds were reported to be trapped underground at the mine in Soma, Manisa province, but Turkish media suggest as many as 157 have died.

A huge rescue operation has begun and some 20 people are reported to have been brought out so far.

Turkish President Abdullah Gul has ordered the regional governor to deploy all resources to rescue the miners.

They are thought to be 4km (2.4 miles) from the entrance, at a depth of 2km.

While it is estimated that 580 workers were underground at the time of the blast, it is thought many of them managed to escape.

Union officials said as the blast occurred at shift changeover time, there was uncertainty about how many miners were still inside, Reuters news agency reports.

Large crowds of worried family members gathered near the privately-owned mine.

This evening the Mayor of Manisa, Cengiz Ergun, said 157 had been killed and 75 injured in the explosion, which is believed to have been triggered by an electrical fault.

Mr Ergun said nearly 600 workers were left trapped underground after the explosion.

They are thought to be trapped about 2km below the surface and 4km from the exit of the mine.

Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said the situation was 'worrisome' and rescue efforts would last until the morning.

Yildiz said rescuers were pumping fresh air into the mine and rescue teams from neighbouring regions were rushing to the area. Tamer Kucukgencay, chairman of the regional labour union, said: ‘They are pumping oxygen into the mine, but the fire is still burning.

‘They say it is an electrical fault but it could be that coal is burning as well.’

Dozens of fellow workers and family members have gathered outside the hospital in Soma - a coal mining community in Turkey's western province of Manisa.

A senior local official, Mehmet Bahattin Atci, said thick smoke was hampering rescue efforts.

Energy Ministry Taner Yildiz said it was a "serious accident" and that he was going to Soma to oversee the rescue operation.

He told reporters that the fire had been triggered by an electrical fault.

He also said that four separate rescue teams were currently working in the mine.

"The fire creates a problem but oxygen is being pumped into the mine shafts that weren't affected," he added.

Before leaving for Manisa, Mr Yildiz told journalists it was too early to be precise about the extent of casualties: "I don't want to give any numbers. We first have to reach our workers underground,"

Analysts say the safety record of Turkey's coal mining industry lags behind that of most industrial nations.

The country's worst mining disaster was in 1992, when 270 miners were killed near Zonguldak, on the Black Sea.

Wednesday 14 May 2014


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