Turkey orders 3 day mourning for Soma mine disaster victims

Ankara: Turkey has declared three days of national mourning for the 205 people killed in a coal mine explosion that also left hundreds trapped underground, the prime minister’s office said Wednesday.

A total of 787 people were inside the mine in Soma, 250 km south of Istanbul, when the disaster occurred Tuesday. As many as 363 people have been accounted for so far, including at least 205 killed, Xinhua reported.

At least 80 injured miners were rescued, including four in serious condition, Turkey’s Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said at the scene as he oversaw some 400 rescuers in operation.

Most of the victims died of carbon monoxide poisoning, said Yildiz.

The accident occurred as the workers were preparing for a shift change, officials said. This might have raised the toll because there were more miners inside than usual.

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

Rescue efforts continued throughout the night, but hopes of finding more survivors were diminishing.

The accident has sparked widespread anger as many denounced poor safety measures, and accused the government and mine companies of “negligence”.

Mining accidents kill dozens of miners each year in Turkey.

The worst mining tragedy in Turkey occurred in 1992 when a fire and explosion killed 263 people.