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Turkey coal mine explosion : Hundreds of miners killed, death toll rises

Soma, May 14 (): Turkey’s energy minister says the death toll from an explosion and fire at a coal mine in western Turkey is now 201.

Taner Yildiz, Energy Minister said when the explosion happened, 787 people were inside the mine at Soma in Manisa province, some 155 miles south of Istanbul. An electrical fault had caused the blast,that happened at about 12:30 GMT on Tuesday. Initially, it was said 17 people had died but the death toll jumped later in the day.

363 miners had been rescued so far. 80 miners were injured in the explosion; among them four are in serious condition. Around 200 more miners are still trapped inside the mine and rescue efforts are still on. Yildiz told reporters more than 400 rescuers are involved in the rescue operation.

Rescuers worked throughout the night to reach hundreds of miners, who are still trapped underground. Relatives have collected near the mine, about 450km (280 miles) west of the capital Ankara.

Yildiz said that carbon monoxide poisoning had claimed many lives. He added, to help the miners trapped inside the mine, oxygen is being pumped into the mine and the rescue efforts are “reaching a critical stage” with the death toll likely to rise as time passes.

The electrical fault had caused power cut, so the mine cages remain unusable. The miners trapped inside are reported to be 4km from the mine entrance and 2km (1.2 miles) below the surface.

The rescue work was hindered as the mine was made up of tunnels that were kilometres (miles) long, Cengiz Ergun, leader of Manisa province, said.

The mine’s owners, Soma Komur Isletmeleri, said the accident had occurred in spite of the “highest safety measures and constant controls”. But experts say Turkey coal mines’ safety records lag behind that of most industrial nations.

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

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