19 Turkish miners feared dead
Associated Press Writer
ANKARA, Turkey (AP) – A methane gas explosion ripped through a coal mine in western Turkey, killing at least six miners and trapping 13 others, the country’s labor minister said on Friday.
Abdullah Ozer, a lawmaker, said the remaining 13 miners are also feared dead. The rescue work has been complicated by high concentration of gas inside the mine and fog that prevented transportation of rescuers by air to the area in western Turkey.
But Labor Minister Omer Dincer expressed hope for survivors. Six bodies were recovered early on Friday morning, Dincer said.
“We’re very sorry. We did not lose our hope. We’re trying to reach them,” Dincer told reporters outside the mine in the village of Devecikonagi near the town of Mustafakemalpasa in western Bursa province.
The miners were trapped nearly 700 feet (213 meters) below the surface Thursday night when the blast caused a shaft to collapse in the mine.
Rescuers could not enter the mine for several hours due to high concentration of gas but pumped air into the mine to try to dissolve the gas as they waited for the arrival of experienced miners with adequate equipment from other cities by road. Heavy fog prevented transportation of them by helicopter.
Late Thursday, six local rescuers were hospitalized after suffering from the gas, NTV television said. Medics at the site provided first aid under floodlights before rushing them to nearby hospitals.
Paramilitary troops cordoned off the area and were trying to calm down relatives of the miners.
But Ozer’s statement diminished hopes for their survival.
“We have been told that there is no hope for those trapped inside because of high concentration of gas inside,” Ozer said at the site.
Accidents are not uncommon in Turkish mines due to safety violations, outdated equipment and high concentrations of methane gas.
Seventeen miners were killed in a methane gas explosion at a coal mine in western Balikesir province three years ago.
In Turkey’s worst mining disaster, a gas explosion killed 270 workers near the Black Sea port of Zonguldak in 1992.