Coal Mine Explosion in Western Turkey – Death Toll Crosses 200

An explosion at a coal mine in western Turkey has left at least 201 workers dead and scores injured, officials say.

Energy Ministry Taner Yildiz said 787 people had been inside the mine at Soma in Manisa province when an electrical fault triggered the blast. Rescuers are working through the night to reach hundreds more miners still trapped underground.

The blast happened at about 12:30 GMT on Tuesday. Initial reports said 17 people had died but the death toll leapt later in the day.
TV footage showed rescuers helping workers from the mine, their faces and hard-hats covered in soot and dust. Some were carried on stretchers to waiting ambulances.

Police were keeping the crowds back to allow emergency services in and out of the area.

Sena Isbiler, a mother of one of the miners, stood on top of piles of wood, anxiously craning her neck to see those being led out of the mine.

“I have been waiting for my son since early afternoon,” she told AFP news agency. “I haven’t heard anything about him yet.”

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has postponed a trip to Albania over the accident and is to visit Soma instead, his office said.

The mine’s owners, Soma Komur Isletmeleri, said an investigation was under way but the accident occurred despite the “highest safety measures and constant controls”.

“Our main priority is to get our workers out so that they may be reunited with their loved ones,” the owners said in a statement.

Lignite coal mining is a major industry in the Soma area, helping to supply a nearby lignite-fired thermal power plant. Analysts say the safety record of Turkey’s coal mines lags behind that of most industrial nations.