Soma (Turkey): At least 157 miners have been killed and more than 200 remain trapped underground after an explosion and fire in a coal mine in the western Turkish province of Manisa, officials said.
“According to unofficial data, the death toll has reached 157 and 75 injured,” Manisa mayor Cengiz Ergun told CNN Turk television.
Official disaster response unit ADA earlier put the death toll at 17 and 11 injured.
Local media said there were 580 people trapped in the mine at the time of the explosion took place yesterday but some had escaped.
Rescue workers are trying desperately to reach the scores of trapped miners and have managed to evacuate around 50, a security source told AFP.
The source said there are 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.
An explosion at the mine was believed to have been triggered by a faulty electrical transformer at around 1230 GMT.
Hundreds of people were gathered around the explosion site as rescuers brought out wounded workers, who were having difficulty breathing and coughing 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.”
Fire officials were trying to pump clean air into the mine shaft for those who remain trapped some two kilometres below the surface and four kilometres from the entrance.
Late in the evening injured people were still emerging from the collapsed mine — some walking, others being carried by rescue workers while being given oxygen.
Nearby, security officers tried to keep ambulance routes clear to ensure aid could reach the victims.
The mining company Soma Komur issued a statement calling the mine collapse a “tragic accident”.
“Unfortunately, some of our workers have lost their lives in this tragic accident,” the statement said.
“The accident happened despite maximum safety measures and inspections, but we have been able to take prompt action,” it added.
Turkey’s ministry of labour and social security said the mine was last inspected on March 17 and was found to be compliant with safety regulations.