AMASRA, TURKEY (AP) – Funerals for miners killed in a coal mine explosion in northern Turkey began yesterday as officials raised the death toll to at least 41 people.
Desperate relatives had waited all night in the cold outside the state-owned Turkish Hard Coal Enterprise’s (TTK) mine in the town of Amasra, in the Black Sea coastal province of Bartin, hoping for news.
There were 110 miners working several hundred meters below ground at the time of the explosion on Friday evening.
Their wait turned to devastation by yesterday noon. Women cried at the funeral of miner Selcuk Ayvaz, whose coffin was wrapped in the red and white Turkish flag.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrived at the scene and said the body of one missing miner had been reached, confirming 41 were dead.
Erdogan was flanked by officials, miners and rescuers, as he vowed to bring an end to mining disasters.
“We don’t want to see deficiencies or unnecessary risks,” Erdogan said, and added that an investigation would reveal those responsible.
Eleven were injured and hospitalised, with five in serious condition, while 58 others managed to get out of the mine on their own or were rescued unharmed.
Energy Minister Fatih Donmez said rescue efforts were almost complete. Earlier, he said that a fire was burning in an area where more than a dozen miners had been trapped.
Work to isolate and cool the fire continued, he said. Preliminary assessments indicated that the explosion was likely caused by firedamp, a reference to flammable gases found in coal mines, Donmez said.
Three prosecutors were investigating the blast.
A miner who works the day shift said he saw the news and hurried to the site to help with the rescue.
“We saw a frightful scene, it cannot be described, it’s very sad,” said Celal Kara, 40. “They’re all my friends… they all had dreams,” Kara, who has been a for 14 years, told The Associated Press after exiting the mine, his face covered in soot.
Ambulances were on standby at the site. Rescue teams were dispatched to the area, including from neighbouring provinces, Turkey’s disaster management agency,
Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD), said.