The death toll from a coal mine explosion in northern Turkey rose to at least 28 people Saturday, officials said. Rescue efforts continued as a fire burned in the mine and desperate relatives waited for news.
There were 110 miners working in the shaft when the explosion occurred Friday evening at the state-owned TTK Amasra Muessese Mudurlugu mine in the town of Amasra, in the Black Sea coastal province of Bartin.
Energy Minister Fatih Durmaz said efforts were continuing to reach 15 people. Most of them are in the mine’s gallery where a fire is still burning.
“It’s not a huge fire, but to get there safely, the fire and carbon monoxide gas must be eliminated,” he told journalists at the site.
Four or five other miners were trapped in cave-ins, Durmaz added. The minister earlier said that preliminary assessments indicated that the explosion was likely caused by firedamp, which is a reference to flammable gases found in coal mines.
Relatives of the miners, wrapped up against the cold, waited outside the mine overnight, desperate for any news about their loved ones.
Health Minister Fahrettin Koca tweeted that 28 miners were dead and 11 others were hospitalized in Bartin and Istanbul. Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said 58 people had been rescued. Precise numbers were not clear.
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,” the miner of 14 years said 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 neighboring provinces, Turkey’s disaster management agency, AFAD, said.
Turkey’s president was expected to visit Amasra on Saturday.
Turkey’s worst mine disaster was in 2014, when 301 people died in a fire inside a coal mine in the town of Soma, in western Turkey.