At least 14 dead, dozens trapped in Turkish mine explosion

Rescuers pulled out 14 bodies on Saturday and searched for signs of life among dozens of miners still trapped beneath hundreds of meters of hard rock after an apparent methane explosion ripped through a pit on Turkey’s Black Sea coast.

Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said 28 people who either crawled out on their own or were rescued by rescue workers suffered several injuries in one of the deadliest industrial accidents in Turkey in years.

“We are facing a truly deplorable situation,” Soylu told reporters after rushing to the small coal mining town of Amasra.

“A total of 110 of our brothers were working (underground). Some came out on their own and some were rescued.”

He also confirmed early reports that 49 miners were trapped in two separate areas between 300 and 350 meters (985 to 1150 feet) underground.

Television images showed frightened crowds – some with tears in their eyes – gathering around a damaged white building at the entrance to the well in search of news for their friends and loved ones.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he would cancel all his other arrangements and fly to the accident site on Saturday.

“Our hope is that the loss of life will not increase further, that our miners will be found alive,” Erdogan said in a tweet.

“All our efforts are in that direction.”

Most of the initial information about those trapped inside came from workers who got out relatively unscathed.

But the mayor of Amasra, Recai Cakir, said many of the survivors suffered “serious injuries”.

The explosion happened just before sunset and the rescue attempt was hampered by the darkness.

Turkey’s Maden Is mining union attributed the explosion to a buildup of methane gas.

But other officials said it was premature to draw firm conclusions about the cause of the accident.

– disaster 2014 –

Rescuers sent reinforcements from surrounding villages to help look for signs of life.

Television footage showed paramedics administering oxygen to the miners who had climbed out and then taking them to the nearest hospitals.

The local governor said a team of more than 70 rescue workers managed to reach a point in the well about 250 meters below.

It was not immediately clear whether the rescuers would be able to get closer to the trapped workers or what was blocking their further passage.

Turkey’s emergency response agency AFAD said the first spark that caused the explosion appeared to come from a faulty transformer.

It later retracted that report, saying that methane gas had ignited “for unknown reasons.”

The local prosecutor’s office said it treated the incident as an accident and launched a formal investigation.

Turkey suffered its deadliest mining disaster in 2014 when 301 workers were killed in an explosion in the western city of Soma.

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