Death toll rises to 232 in coal mine fire in Turkey's west

The coal mine fire in the west of Turkey has killed 232 miners and trapped hundreds underground, Turkish Prime Minister has said on Wednesday, in what might become the biggest mining disaster in Turkish history.

Hopes of rescuing any more trapped coal miners from a mine in western Turkey are fading, according to officials, after nine were evacuated Wednesday morning.

"We are worried the death toll may rise,’’ said Energy Minister Taner Yildiz. He said oxygen continues to be pumped into the coal mine in Soma, where a fire continues to burn.

An explosion and fire in the district of Soma in Manisa province followed an electrical fault on Tuesday afternoon.

Yildiz said 363 miners out of 787 who work at the privately-owned mine have been accounted for, including those who died and the 80 people rescued with injuries - four of them in critical condition.

Autopsies have been carried on 72 bodies and funerals will be held for the victims, said Yildiz. Identification of the workers’ bodies will be carried out until noon Wednesday, officials said.

An exact cause of the blast has yet to be officially announced. Yildiz said the deaths were due to carbon monoxide poisoning and ruled out the possibility of firedamp or methane gas explosion.

The explosion took place during a shift changeover, Yildiz already underscored, heightening concerns that the death toll may rise.

Dozens of miners have been pulled from the mine as a huge rescue operation is still continuing, AA correspondent on the scene reports.

Turkish president orders to use all means available

President Abdullah Gul has ordered the Manisa Governor’s Office to use all means available to state officials to rescue the miners.

Gul also postponed an official trip to China. He was set to leave Friday.

Prime Minister Erdogan, who has canceled a trip to Albania to pay a visit to the province, has offered condolences to the families of those who died.

Main opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu has also canceled all his engagements to visit the area on Wednesday.

A huge crowd of relatives of the miners continue to wait outside the mine for good news on the rescue efforts. Another crowd of relatives flocked to the district's hospital to learn about the medical situation of the injured miners rescued.

A relative of an injured miner, Sema Korkmaz, said rescue teams were trying to reach her husband who had been working in the mine for eight years, but they failed. "We have not heard from him yet. One of his mate was rescued, who is at hospital."

Meanwhile, Turkish Red Crescent set up tents for the worried relatives of trapped miners.

'Toughest duty'

The workers are thought to be 3.5 kilometers away from the entrance to the mine. Minister Yildiz said the fire broke out 150 meters underground.

Yildiz assured transparency over the whole incident and said the priority was to reach the trapped miners.

"Time is working against us. We are facing a great adversity," he said.

The minister said efforts continue to clean up the carbon monoxide gas inside the mine, indicating that it might cause more deaths in the meantime.

"Unfortunately, I'm carrying out one of the toughest duties for an energy minister," Yildiz said. "And I'm saying this with concern that our distress might exacerbate in the coming hours."

Yildiz's announcement raises fears this might become the biggest mining disaster in Turkish history, with hundreds of workers still stranded below the soil.

Turkey declares 3 days of mourning over coal mine fire

Turkey has declared three days of national mourning on Wednesday, for the hundreds of victims of Tuesday's coal mine fire.

A statement issued from Prime Ministry's press office said the disaster in Soma, a district of the Turkey's western Manisa province, deeply saddened the Turkish nation.

The statement said the national flag will fly at half-mast across Turkey and at foreign delegations.

The coal mine fire in the west of Turkey has killed 205 miners and trapped hundreds underground, Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said early Wednesday.

Turkish mine fire could be 'worst in country’s mining history'

The deaths of 205 miners in a fire at a coal mine in western Turkey on Tuesday could be the worst mining disaster in the country's history, Turkey's Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said Wednesday.

Turkey has declared three days of national mourning -- during which flags will fly at half-mast and parliament will be closed -- for the hundreds of victims of the fire.

Officials said earlier Wednesday that hopes of rescuing any more trapped coal miners are "fading."

The prosecutor’s office in Soma has launched an investigation on the accident, including a probe over possible unregistered workers at the site.

The energy minister said he could not verify how many people are trapped in the mine until all workers are evacuated.

The explosion took place during a shift changeover, Yildiz has underscored, heightening concerns that the death toll may rise.

The workers are thought to be 3.5 kilometers away from the entrance to the mine. Yildiz said the fire broke out 150 meters underground.

Yildiz assured transparency over the whole incident and said the priority was to reach the trapped miners.

More than 3,000 people have died and over 100,000 injured in mining accidents since 1941 in Turkey, government statistics agency TurkStat's figures show.

Mines and stone quarries are the most dangerous places for Turkish workers. According to data, more than 10 percent of work-related accidents in 2013 happened in the mining sector.

The deadliest mining incident in history took place in Benxi in Liaoning province, China, on April 26, 1942, when 1,549 people died.

The second deadliest mining incident in the world and the worst in Europe, occurred in Courrieres, France on March 10, 1906, when 1,099 workers were killed.

The causes of mining accidents vary from gas compression, leaks of poisonous gases, natural gas explosions, fires as well as the collapse of the mines.(ΑΑ)

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