SOMA, May 14 – At least 201 people were killed and hundreds more remained trapped underground after an explosion at a coal mine in western Turkey, the government said Wednesday, warning that rescue efforts faced a race against time.
The toll has risen rapidly since Tuesday’s disaster in the province of Manisa, when a total of 787 mineworkers became trapped inside the mine.
Rescue operations continued overnight for the hundreds of people still underground. Of those rescued alive, 80 were injured, four of them seriously, said Energy Minister Taner Yildiz.
“We fear the number could rise even further because those who came to help out may be among the injured and affected by the smoke,” he told reporters.
“As the time passes, we are very quickly heading to an unfavourable outcome,” he added.
Earlier a security source told AFP that there were pockets in the mine, one of which was open so rescuers were able to reach the workers, but the second was blocked with workers trapped inside.
The explosion was believed to have been triggered by a faulty electrical transformer at around 1230 GMT Tuesday.
Hundreds of people gathered around the explosion site as rescuers brought out injured workers, who were coughing and struggling to breathe due to the dust.
Sena Isbiler, a mother of one of the miners, stood on top of piles of wood, craning her neck to see who was being led out of the mine.
“I have been waiting for my son since early afternoon,” she told AFP.
“I haven’t heard anything about him yet.”
Arum Unzar, a colleague of the missing miners said he had lost a friend previously “but this is enormous.”
“All the victims are our friends,” he said as he wept.
“We are a family and today that family is devastated. We have had very little news and when it does come it’s very bad,” he added.