The blast ripped through the mine near the small coal mining town of Amasra on Turkey‘s Black Sea coast shortly before sunset on Friday.
“We are approaching the end of the rescue operation,” a tearful Energy Minister Fatih Donmez said at the scene on Saturday.
“The search continues for the sole person whose fate is unknown,” he said, adding that the fire that had broken out in the tunnels following the blast was now mostly under control.
Updating the death toll, Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said: “We have counted 40 dead in total. 58 miners were able to be rescued, either by themselves or thanks to rescuers.”
At least 28 killed, dozens trapped in Turkey mine blast
Rescuers desperately searched for signs of life on Saturday after a methane blast at a coal mine in northern Turkey killed at least 28 people and trapped dozens of others hundreds of metres underground.
Updating the death toll, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca also tweeted that 11 others pulled out alive were being treated in hospital after one of Turkey’s deadliest industrial accidents in years struck Friday at sunset.
“We are facing a truly regretful situation,” Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu told reporters earlier after urgently flying to the small coal mining town of Amasra on Turkey’s Black Sea coast.
“In all, 110 of our brothers were working (underground). Some of them came out on their own, and some of them were rescued.”
Soylu also confirmed early reports that nearly 50 miners remained trapped in two separate areas between 300 and 350 metres (985 to 1,150 feet) below ground.
Television images showed anxious crowds — some with tears in their eyes — congregating around a damaged white building near the entrance to the pit in search of news for their friends and loved ones.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he would cancel all his other arrangements and fly to the scene of the accident on Saturday.
“Our hope is that the loss of life will not increase further, that our miners will be found alive,” Erdogan said in a tweet.
“All of our efforts are aimed in this direction.”
Most initial information about those trapped inside was coming from workers who had managed to climb out relatively unharmed.
But Amasra mayor Recai Cakir said many of those who survived suffered “serious injuries”.
The blast occurred moments before sunset and the rescue effort was being impeded by the dark.
Turkey’s Maden Is mining workers’ union attributed the blast to a build-up of methane gas.
But other officials said it was premature to draw definitive conclusions over the cause of the accident.
Rescuers sent in reinforcements from surrounding villages to help search for signs of life.
Television images showed paramedics giving oxygen to the miners who had climbed out, then rushing them to the nearest hospitals.
The local governor said a team of more than 70 rescuers had managed to reach a point in the pit some 250 metres below.
It was not immediately clear if the rescuers would be able to come any closer to the trapped workers or what was blocking their further passage.
Turkey’s AFAD disaster management service said the initial spark that caused the blast appeared to have come from a malfunctioning transformer.
It later withdrew that report and said methane gas had ignited for “unknown reasons”.
The local public prosecutor’s office said it was treating the incident as an accident and launching a formal investigation.
Turkey suffered its deadliest coal mining disaster in 2014 when 301 workers died in a blast in the western town of Soma.
Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu : It is the duty of the state to ensure the safety of people’s lives
CHP Leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu said, “It is the duty of the state, which we call the social state, to ensure the safety of life of these people,” regarding the explosion that occurred in the mine belonging to the Turkish Hard Coal Institution Amasra Institution.
CHP Chairman Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu made an examination in the mine where the explosion took place in Amasra. Kılıçdaroğlu expressed his condolences to the families of the workers who lost their lives in the explosion.
Stating that they attended a funeral, Kılıçdaroğlu said, “The number of mine martyrs who lost their lives is 41. Yahu friends, I am really full of anger. I am truly sorry.
We are in the 21st century, friends, in the 21st century… To learn about a New Year’s Eve, the working conditions of mine workers, “I spent hundreds of meters underground with mine workers to see them. These people are sweating. It is the duty of the state, which we call the social state, to ensure the safety of these people.
We did not forget Soma in the 21st century, we did not forget Ermenek,” he said.
Pointing out that 41 workers lost their lives, Kılıçdaroğlu said, “What age are we living in, for God’s sake? Why do these mining accidents only happen in Turkey?
Or is there not mining in another country in the world? Why aren’t people dying there? They are extracting more coal than us. We will take precautions.” .’ They say. Ya friends, where have you been for 20 years? Where will you take precautions?
Who will be accountable to these families? Is life this cheap in Turkey, friends? I’m sure, I’m sad. It’s a shame, it’s a sin,” he said.