Over 17 killed and 200 trapped in Turkish coal mine explosion

Ankara/Istanbul: At least 17 miners were killed, 11 injured and more than 200 workers are reported to be trapped underground after a coal mine explosion in Turkey Tuesday, the country’s disaster and emergency management presidency said.

The explosion occurred in a privately-owned mine in the Soma district of Turkey’s Manisa province, Xinhua reported.

The Soma Coal Mining Company, the mine’s operator, also issued a statement confirming casualties, but did not give the exact number of workers trapped in the mine.

The operator said that they carried out an inspection of the mine facility only two months ago and found nothing contrary to the regulations.

Reports said that a fire broke out after an explosion caused by an electric fault. Nearly 600 workers were inside the mine, and while workers were changing their shift, a transformer exploded. Only 280 of them were said to have escaped.

Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz told reporters that he could not confirm the numbers of the injured or dead, before heading to Manisa.

The explosion occurred at a power distribution unit two km below the surface, which caused the mine’s elevator to stop working.

This latest incident is one of the numerous mining accidents that Turkey has had in recent years. Accidents, cave-ins, and explosions have claimed the lives of dozens of mine workers yearly.

Last December, four miners, who were reportedly working at an unlicensed coal mine for 60 Turkish Liras (about $30) were killed in Zonguldak province after an accident.

According to the Chamber of Mining Engineers of Turkey, 80 accidents took place in Turkish mines in 2012, which killed 61 people and injured 91 others.

Since 1955, at least 3,053 Turks have been killed and 326,208 others injured in mine accidents in the country.