Mine disaster in Turkey: More than 200 dead, hundreds of workers trapped underground
An explosion possibly caused by an electrical fault sparked a fire at 2 km underground in the western province of Manisa. 787 miners were working in the mine, only 363 were able to escape. The authorities speak of "a race against time", the number of victims "is set to rise".

Ankara ( AsiaNews / Agencies) - Rescue workers and authorities in the western province of Manisa are engaged in a race against time to save about 200 miners trapped in a coal mine after an overnight explosion. The official death toll has risen to 201 people confirmed dead, with 80 seriously injured, but the Turkish Minister of Energy, Taner Yildiz, has warned that the figure " is set to rise". About 12 hours after the tragedy, rescuers continue to dig and pump oxygen into the mine to try to keep the workers alive. They are trapped at a depth of 2 km and 4 km away from the mine entrance.

The disaster occurred in the mine of Soma, about 120 kilometers north of Izmir and more than 400 from Ankara. According to initial reports, the explosion was caused by a malfunction in the electrical system. The rescued miners say that "the fire is still burning" inside the mine shafts . Mine owner Soma Komur Isletmeleri, said that "an investigation is under way, but we have the highest safety measures and constant controls" the last check having taken place on March 17th. "Our main priority is to get our workers out so that they may be reunited with their loved ones".

At the time of the disaster in the mine 787 miners were working: according to rescue workers, 363 of them succeeded in leaving the mine or have been rescued alive within an hour of the blast. Hundreds of family members and work colleagues have gathered at the mine who are waiting anxiously for news . Minister Yildiz warned that If there is negligence, we won't remain indifferent to it".  He added that the rescue effort is "reaching a critical stage," with more deaths likely as time passes.

The Soma company describes itself as "the largest coal producer" throughout Turkey, with a cargo of 250 thousand tons extracted every month. This is largely destined for the power plants in the province, while the company also has interests in real estate. Yesterday's was the worst disaster in decades: since 2003, according to official data, about 100 miners have died in accidents at work. In 1992, the explosion of gases in a mine Kozlu killed 263 workers.