Turkey: More than 40 dead after gas explosion in coal mine

Turkey: More than 40 dead after gas explosion in coal mine

Rescuers ended their search Saturday at the Amasra coal mine in northwestern Turkey after finding the lifeless body of the last missing miner bearing the toll of Friday night’s firedamp strike that left 41 dead and 28 injured. “Our priority was to find the miners in the tunnel. We finally reached the last one. He also died, bringing the death toll to 41,” said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who visited the site early Saturday afternoon .

“We brought up the bodies of our comrades”

Visibly dismayed, with tears in his eyes, Energy Minister Fatih Donmez had hinted near the imminent end of the bailouts, which were “ongoing for a person whose fate (remained) unknown”. Nearly a hundred miners were in the back of the adit when the blast, which appeared to be caused by a gas blast, occurred around 6:15 p.m. local time on Friday, just before nightfall – slowing the search.

According to Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu, “58 minors were rescued, alone or thanks to help”. The first miners to be brought to the surface and unharmed insisted on continuing to help with the salvage: “I’m fine, I want to stay here to help my comrades,” protested a man with a bruised, soot-blackened face and refused until boarding an ambulance and shown by private television network NTV. “We brought up the bodies of our comrades, it’s terrible for us,” another told the same broadcaster.

state of shock

Since the night before, miners’ families have been waiting in pain and tears at the mine entrance for news, an AFP photographer told AFP. A woman in shock had to be evacuated by emergency services, others prayed and leaned on the cordons surrounding the crime scene, while survivors supported and comforted one another.

Dense gray smoke rose from the shaft’s exit on Saturday morning, indicating a fire had broken out in one of the roughly 300 meters of underground tunnels that the energy minister said was finally brought under control around noon. The latter recalled having visited the facility three weeks earlier.

Addressing the miners who safely emerged from the mine, the head of state announced a full investigation: “How this explosion happened and who is responsible for it, all this will be clarified by an administrative and judicial investigation that has already begun,” he assured . He had already promised on Twitter that the “judicial authorities will investigate this terrible accident that has shaken us in all dimensions. No negligence will remain unanswered”.

But the head of state also blamed fate: “The Amasra mine is one of the most advanced facilities (…) But we are people who believe in fate and something like this will always happen, you have to know that,” he explained the tearful gathering before going to the bedside of some of the wounded who were being treated on the spot. Mr Erdogan, who has been in power since 2003 and will stand as a candidate to succeed him next June, also pledged that the state would take responsibility for the victims and “protect the families” whose funerals were being celebrated in neighboring villages as early as Saturday became . , in accordance with Muslim tradition. Mr Erdogan planned to attend some of them, particularly in the village of Makaraci, where four of the victims were from.

Opposition leader (CHP) Kemal Kiliçdaroglu also attended some of them, an AFP photographer noted. “Our initial observations indicate that some of the (miners) died due to the high pressure and heat caused by the blast,” the energy secretary said overnight.

Frequent accidents

According to the local governor, a team of more than 70 people managed to quickly reach a part of the well about 250 meters deep. But the fire appears to have broken out several hours later. The accident and its heavy toll sparked many solidarity reactions, including that of Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Twitter, who said he was “sad” about the accident despite the extreme tensions between the two countries.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy also expressed their condolences via Twitter, the second in Turkish, as did European Council President Charles Michel. Accidents at work are common in Turkey, where strong economic development over the past decade has often been at the expense of safety regulations, particularly in construction and mining.

The last, at Soma Mine (West) in 2014, killed 301 miners after an explosion followed by a fire that caused a shaft to collapse. Five mine officials convicted of negligence had been sentenced to up to 22 years and six months in prison by Turkish courts.

Reference: www.europe1.fr

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