Landslide halts rescue efforts at Turkish mine

Landslide halts rescue efforts at Turkish mine

Efforts to rescue the 18 Turkish workers trapped in a flooded coal mine were halted following a landslide early on Thursday, fuelling anxiety and despair among those hoping to find the workers alive.

“Time is ticking by (…)“It is not just because of the water. It is because of the tonnes of mud and waste that have crashed down into the pits,” Energy Minister Taner Yildiz, who is at the scene of the disaster, told local TV station NTV (in Turkish).

“I should say that hopes are fading to rescue our miner brothers. The more we advance each meter underground, the more we face new problems. We are conducting 24-hour, nonstop work and we may encounter another landslide in the next phase of the search; we cannot foresee it,” he added.

The company that operates de mine, Has Şekerler Mining, broke the silence today saying that, while it is still impossible to reach a conclusion regarding the reason for the flooding incident, "a natural disaster" could have caused the tragedy, based on information from miners who escaped.

The firm, Daily Sabah reports, argued that not allowing workers to have their lunch outside the mine is a common practice in mines operating across Turkey, including those operated by the state.

Media reports, however, have revealed that the company had been previously fined for a series of failures during inspections. Mining activities were, in fact, halted in the mine's gallery where the flooding occurred due to water leaking two weeks before the accident.

Has Şekerler said the leak was properly stopped, but the water in the gallery was not extracted.

Over 500 rescue personnel, two planes, three helicopters, 25 ambulances and 97 other vehicles continue to carry out the search and rescue work at the Ermenek mine.

Turkey is no stranger to mining tragedies. In May, a fire inside a coal mine in Soma, western Turkey, killed 301 people, becoming the country’s worst mining disaster.

The Soma catastrophe also became the worst in a series of incidents in the coal sector, which has seen 30,000 die since 1970 as a consequence of poor safety conditions.