Nineteen die in Turkish tunnel fire

A fire that raged through a copper mine in northern Turkey killed 19 workers and injured 17 others on Wednesday. Rescuers were searching the smoke-clogged shafts to make sure that no one was left inside.

The fire broke out inside the mine in the town of Kure in Kastamonu province, trapping about 30 workers at 150m beneath the surface. Kure is about 300km north of the capital, Ankara.

Rescuers doused the fire about four hours after it was sparked by welding inside the mine.

Nineteen bodies were retrieved by rescuers who needed gas masks to enter the smoke-filled mine, the Anatolia news agency said.

Seventeen injured workers were evacuated, the agency said.

Rescuers were searching through the mine to make sure that no one was left inside. The workers had fled to the lower levels to escape the flames.

“The workers have run to lower levels to escape the smoke. We’re trying to dissolve the smoke with fans now,” said Ilker Keremoglu, head of the company that owns the mine.

Keremoglu, chief executive officer of STFA, the Istanbul-based company that owns the copper mine, said the fire started during welding inside the mine.

One of the injured workers, Ali Cinar, told Anatolia that winds blowing inside the mine fed the flames.

“I spent three hours full of fear under the ground,” Cinar said. “I cannot describe my happiness.”

Cinar suffered smoke inhalation and some bruises were seen on his body, said the agency.—Sapa-AP



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