Turkey mine explosion: Over 230 dead, smoke hindering rescue efforts
Rescuers continue to battle Wednesday hoping to reach hundreds of workers still trapped underground after an explosion at a coal mine in western Turkey, which has killed at least 230 people in one of the worst industrial disasters ever to hit the country.
Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said 787 people were inside the coal mine in Soma, some 250 kilometres south of Istanbul, at the time of the explosion, and 363 of them had been rescued so far.
"Regarding the rescue operation, I can say that our hopes are diminishing," Yildiz said to local media, adding that the fire was still blazing inside the mine, 18 hours after the blast. The air around the mine swirled with smoke and soot, and several miners are believed to have died as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Television footage showed thousands of workers and relatives gathering outside the local hospital, black and white images from security cameras located inside the mine, and soot-covered miners ferried on to nearby ambulances.
The head of the International Labour Organization (ILO), Guy Ryder, extended his condolences to the families affected by Turkey's mining disaster, adding the deadly event was a reminder of the paramount importance of occupational safety and health in the mining sector.
Mining accidents are common in Turkey, where poor safety conditions have cost 3,000 lives since 1941. The nation's worst mining disaster was a 1992 gas explosion that killed 263 workers near the Black Sea port of Zonguldak.
The recent tragedy, likely to become Turkey's deadliest, is also the worst in a series of incidents in the coal sector, which has seen 30,000 die since 1970.
CHRONOLOGY OF THE LAST 30 YEARS IN TURKEY’S MINES:
7 March 1983: 103 deaths in Armutçuk with methane explosion
10 April 1983: 10 deaths in Kozlu with methane explosion
31 January 1987: 8 deaths in Kozlu with dent
31 January 1990: 5 deaths in Amasra with methane explosion
7 February 1990: 68 killings in Yeni Çeltik with methane explosion
3 March 1992: 263 deaths in Kozlu with methane explosion
26 March 1995: 37 killings in Sorgun with methane explosion
22 November 2003: 10 killings in Ermenek with methane explosion
8 September 2004: 19 deaths in Küre with fire
2 June 2006: 17 deaths in Dursunbey with methane explosion
10 December 2009: 19 deaths in Mustafakemalpaşa with methane explosion
17 May 2010: 30 deaths in Zonguldak with methane explosion
8 January 2013: 8 deaths in Kozlu with methane explosion
13 May 2014: 232 deaths (so far) in Soma explosion and fire
Source: IndustriALL Global Union
(Images: screenshots via YouTube)