Rescue teams were searching early Saturday for signs of life at a coal mine in northwestern Turkey following an explosion that killed at least 28 people and left dozens trapped underground. The accident that occurred at 6:15 p.m. local time (3:15 p.m. GMT) on Friday at the Amasra mine, on the Black Sea coast, left at least 28 dead, Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca announced on Twitter.
It also reported that eleven people had been sent to hospital after being rescued from the rubble in one of the country’s worst industrial accidents in years.
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“We are facing a really sad panorama”Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu told the press, who rushed to the scene of the tragedy accompanied by the Minister of Energy.
According to the interior minister, of the total of 110 miners who were working, around 50 were trapped in underground galleries located 300 and 350 meters below sea level.
Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that he was canceling his schedule to travel to the crash site on Saturday.
“Our wish is that the loss of life is not greater and that our miners can get out safe and sound”he tweeted.
Local television showed images of hundreds of people, many of them crying, in front of a damaged white building near the mine entrance.
Energy Minister Fatih Donmez said that based on early observations, the detonation was caused by an accumulation of firedamp, a common gas in underground mines composed essentially of methane.
Afad, the public body for disaster management of Turkeyinitially announced that a faulty transformer was the cause of the explosion, before retracting and saying that it was methane gas that exploded for “unknown” reasons.
The rescue continues
“I do not know what happened. There was a sudden pressure and I couldn’t see anything.” A miner who was able to get out of the tunnels under his own power told the state-run Anadolu news agency.
In images broadcast on Turkish television, paramedics were seen giving oxygen to the miners who had left and then taking them to the nearest hospitals.
According to regional authorities, a team of more than 70 rescuers had managed to reach a point in the shaft some 250 meters below ground.
The mayor of Amasra, Recai Cakir, noted that “almost half of the workers have been evacuated”, quoted by Turkish television NTV.
“Most are safe although there are some who are seriously injured”, he added.
The rescue work continued at night, despite the added difficulty of the lack of light.
The local prosecutor’s office said it was treating the incident as an accident and had launched a formal investigation.
Occupational accidents are frequent in Turkey, where the strong economic development of the last decade has often come at the expense of safety standards, especially in construction and mining.
The country suffered its deadliest coal mining disaster when 301 workers were killed in an explosion in the western city of Soma in 2014.
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