Turkish coal mine explosion leaves 200 dead and 80 injured

A man kisses his rescued son

Hundreds of families were desperately waiting for news but rescuers pulled out ‘body after body'

LAST UPDATED AT 08:59 ON Wed 14 May 2014

AN EXPLOSION at a coal mine in western Turkey has killed more than 200 workers and injured 80, with hundreds more trapped underground.

Turkish authorities said 787 people had been inside the mine at Soma in Manisa province, roughly 155 miles south of Istanbul, when an electrical fault triggered the blast.

Rescuers have been working through the night to reach those who are trapped 420 metres deep inside the mine. There are fears the death toll, currently at 201, could rise.

People cheered as some workers emerged from the mine covered in soot, but others have not been so lucky and dozens of ambulances were called in to carry the rising number of bodies and injured workers. Hundreds of families desperately waited for news, reports the BBC, as rescuers pulled "body after body" from the mine.

A group of women sat wailing near the entrance to the mine, while police had to set up fences and stand guard around Soma state hospital to keep the crowds away.

Officials said the accident happened as workers were preparing for a shift change so there were more miners inside than usual.

The deaths were caused by carbon monoxide poisoning, said the Turkish energy minister Taner Yildiz, who feared the death toll could rise higher.

Workers were reportedly unable to use lifts to escape because the explosion had cut the power and the rescue operation was hindered because the mine had not been cleared of gas.

One mining trade union leader suggested it could be Turkey's worst mining accident ever. The worst in recent history was a 1992 gas explosion that killed 263 workers near the Black Sea port of Zonguldak.

The owner of the mine, SOMA Komur Isletmeleri AS, has launched an investigation, but insisted that the accident occurred despite the "highest safety measures and constant controls".

The company said in a statement that its "main priority is to get our workers out so that they may be reunited with their loved ones". The Daily Telegraph says mining accidents are common in Turkey, which is "plagued by poor safety conditions". · 

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