Hundreds trapped in Turkish coal mine

Miners at work in a coal mine in Turkey's Black Sea city of Zonguldak. (Reuters)

Miners at work in a coal mine in Turkey's Black Sea city of Zonguldak. (Reuters)

An explosion and fire in a coal mine in western Turkey has killed at least four miners and trapped as many as 300 more.

The blast at the mine in Soma, around 120km northeast of the Aegean coastal city of Izmir, happened during a change in shift, leading to uncertainty about the exact number of workers still inside the mine, said labour union officials.

“They are pumping oxygen into the mine, but the fire is still burning. They say it is an electrical fault but it could be that coal is burning as well,” said Tamer Kucukgencay, chair of the regional labour union, by telephone.

Television footage showed dozens of fellow workers and family members gathering outside the hospital in Soma, a coal mining community in Turkey’s western province of Manisa.

Local MP Muzaffer Yurttas told broadcaster CNN Turk that four people had been killed and 20 others taken to hospital, retracting his earlier statement that 20 people had been killed.

Nurettin Akcul, head of the Turkish Mineworkers’ Union, said five workers had been killed in the blast, which he said happened around 2km below ground.

Energy Minister Taner Yildiz confirmed that an electrical fault triggered a fire and that workers had been killed, but declined to say how many.

Soma mayor Mehmet Bahattin Atci said 200 to 300 workers were still inside following the explosion. And the head of the local fire service told Turkish television that around 300 workers were still trapped. – Reuters

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