Helpless miners in Amasra
Faces broken by exhaustion and grief, covered in black soot, the miners struggle to find the words.
At the Amasra coal mine in north-west Turkey, 41 of their comrades were killed in an explosion on Friday evening.
“Words are not enough,” said Erdogan Yanardag, a miner who was on the day shift that day.
When he found out about the accident, the 43-year-old rushed to the scene of the accident to help the survivors out of the burning tunnels.
His black-spotted clothing testifies to the tireless effort he and the others put into it through the night.
“Everyone grabbed one end of the stretcher, some from behind, some in the middle and others from the front,” he told AFP on Saturday.
“Everyone who heard about the blast – relatives, neighbors and friends of the miners – rushed here.”
These dramas, “it’s part of the DNA of the mine”.
According to witnesses, the explosion was due to a build-up of methane in the mine.
– “With a heavy heart” –
Adem Usluoglu, who works at another mine in the region, heard the news on his way home from work and immediately ran to offer rescuers his help.
“Some people were burned alive, they were seriously injured by the force of the explosion. It’s a huge catastrophe,” he laments.
“I have a terribly heavy heart, I don’t know how to describe what I feel”. “I have a narrow throat, my tongue can’t form the words in my mouth”.
“We don’t want to experience that pain again,” says the miner.
The Amasra mine employs around 600 miners who extract 300 to 400,000 tons of coal annually.
At a nearby Hattat mining company facility, deputy director Ilyas Borekci dispatched three special teams to rescue miners and recover survivors from the damaged mine.
“The methane level was constantly monitored, the helpers had mobile measuring devices in their hands and respirators, otherwise it would have been impossible to get there,” he emphasizes.
“Our comrades crashed, they stayed four to five hours, then they had to take a break because the methane concentration had increased,” he admits.
The teams also tried to control and contain the fire to prevent the flames from spreading in the galleries.
But the only chance of surviving an explosion of this magnitude is to get out immediately, Iliyas Borekci continues.
Because nothing protects against carbon monoxide for more than 45 minutes. And above a certain concentration, it kills.
“There are no survival spaces, no niches in the mine,” he explains. “We have to get out”.
When his teams came down a few hours later, they found nothing but bodies in the early hours of Saturday morning.
“Unfortunately, everyone who was reassembled died, including some we knew well,” concludes the manager, crying.
The local judiciary announced that it would initiate an investigation into the “accident”.
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