The death toll from a coal mine explosion in northern Turkey on Saturday has risen to at least 40 people, officials said.
Desperate relatives waited all night in the cold outside TTK Amasra Muessese Mudurlugu state mine in the town of Amasra, in the Black Sea province of Bartin, hoping for news. 110 miners were working in the shaft when the explosion occurred on Friday evening.
Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said on Saturday that 40 miners had been confirmed dead. Eleven were injured and hospitalized, while 58 managed to get out of the mine on their own or were rescued unharmed. The status of one remaining miner was unclear.
Energy Minister Fatih Donmez said that rescue efforts are almost complete. Earlier, he said that the fire was still burning in the mine gallery where more than ten miners were trapped. Work on insulation and cooling of the fire continued, he said.
Preliminary assessments indicated that the explosion was most likely caused by a fire, which refers to flammable gases found in coal mines, Donmez said overnight.
A miner working the day shift said he saw the news and rushed to the spot to help with the rescue. “We saw a terrible scene, it’s indescribable, it’s very sad,” said Celal Kara, 40. “They’re all my friends… they all had dreams,” the 14-year-old miner said after emerging from of the mine, face covered with soot.
An ambulance was on standby at the scene. Rescue teams have been dispatched to the area, including from neighboring provinces, Turkey’s disaster management agency, AFAD, said.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is expected to visit Amasra on Saturday.
Separately, Turkish police headquarters said in a statement that legal action will be taken against 12 internet users who allegedly shared provocative content about the mine explosion to incite hatred on social media.
The worst mining disaster in Turkey was in 2014, when 301 people died in a coal mine fire in the western Turkish city of Soma.