Turkey mine explosion: At least 150 dead and hundreds trapped in Soma facility
Miners' loved ones have gathered outside the facility in the hope that they will be given news
At least 150 people have been killed in a coal mine explosion in Turkey, authorities have said.
Disaster teams in Turkey have launched a massive rescue operation at a coal mine in the town of Soma, after an explosion and a fire has left many dead and hundreds more trapped underground.
Turkey’s disaster management agency drastically increased the death toll on Tuesday night from 17 to 151.
According to local media reports the number killed could be even higher. The mayor of Manisa, Cengiz Ergun, told CNN Turk news channel that 157 had perished, citing health officials at the entrance of the mine. Some 600 workers were trapped at the time of the explosion, he added.
A power distribution unit exploded on Tuesday afternoon at a mine in the town 250km (155 miles) south of the capital Istanbul, local official Mehmet Bahattin Atci told reporters.
The blast triggered an electricity outage, making the elevators unusable and leaving hundreds of workers stranded underground.
The exact number of people trapped is yet unknown, as the blast occurred as workers changed their shifts.
Atci had initially said the incident had left between 200 and 300 miners underground, but the figure was later revised to “more than 200 workers.”
“Evacuation efforts are underway. I hope that we are able to rescue them,” the country’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in televised comments.
In an attempt to help trapped miners survive, rescuers pumped fresh air underground, while rescue teams from neighbouring areas were rushed in to help rescue efforts, according to Energy Minister Taner Yildiz, who immediately went to Soma to oversee the rescue operation.
“It is a serious accident,” he told reporters.
“Our priority is to reach our miner brothers," he said, adding: "any figure we give could well be wrong."
However, the rescue effort was being hampered by the fact that the mine was made up of tunnels that were miles long, said Cengiz Ergun, the leader of Manisa province, where the town is located.
“The situation inside is troubling,” Ergun told NTV television.
Families wait outside the mine (Getty Images)
Meanwhile, hundreds of people had gathered outside the mine and the local hospital in Soma, in the hope that they would hear some news of their loved ones.
SOMA Komur Isletmeleri AS, which owns the mine, confirmed that a number of its workers were killed but would not give a specific figure. It said the accident occurred despite the “highest safety measures and constant controls” and added that an investigation was being launched.
“Our main priority is to get our workers out so that they may be reunited with their loved ones,” the company said in a statement.
Mining accidents are common in Turkey, where poor safety conditions in some facilities can put workers at risk.
Turkey's worst mining disaster was a 1992 gas explosion that killed 263 workers near the Black Sea port of Zonguldak.
Additional reporting by agencies
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