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Coal Mine explosion in Turkey; 363 safe, 238 dead, rescue efforts ongoing

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Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared three days of national mourning in Turkey after a huge explosion ripped through a coal mine in Soma yesterday. A few hours ago President Erdogan confirmed in a press conference that 363 miners have been found alive and 238 dead bodies have been recovered. There were 787 working in the mine at the time of the explosion.

Prior to the killing fires surging through the mines yesterday, Turkey’s worst mining disaster was the 1992 gas explosion in a mine close to Zonguldak (near the shores of the Black Sea). The death toll in that tragedy was 263 miners. Authorities fear that this explosion is on track to far surpass that one in the sheer numbers of lives lost.

Many of the miners Tuesday were working approximately 460 yards below ground, but the explosion knocked out the power and they were not able to ride the elevators up to safety. Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said “our hopes are diminishing.” He is overseeing the rescue operations which include over 400 people trying to save the miners still trapped underground.

Yildiz said that it appears most of the dead that they have examined so far were killed by the carbon monoxide gas which is always present in coal mines; but the effects were intensified after the explosion. Because of the gas and the awful thick smoke, rescue workers have to come out frequently and this is prolonging the recovery efforts.

Soma Komur, the company that owns the mines, expressed their condolences to the families of the victims and well wishes in the safe recovery of the other workers still to be found. However they assert that this mine was up-to-date on all technologies and safety standards.

Turkey’s Work and Social Ministry confirmed that the company had followed all safety precautions. This particular mine has had four inspections between 2012 and 2014, with the last one being in March 2014. They had passed all inspections and were deemed safe for the workers.

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