Fears grow over fate of trapped Turkish miners as rescue work continues

08:25, May 19, 2010      

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Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said Tuesday efforts to rescue some 30 miners trapped underground after a coal mine blast in the country's north had run into difficulty, raising fears over the fate of the workers, local media reported.

Yildiz said the rescue team was blocked by another pile of debris in the mine on Tuesday after clearing a heap of rubble earlier, dimming hopes for the trapped workers at the Karadon coal mine in the Black Sea province of Zonguldak.

He was quoted by the semi-official Anatolia news agency as saying the debris of rocks and dirt was about 7 meters in length, causing a delay in rescue efforts that increased fears over the lives of trapped miners.

A total of 50 rescue workers were working in the mine and had to be replaced before search work could resume, Yildiz noted.

Relatives of the trapped miners waited anxiously, many with tears in their eyes, outside the mine, Turkish television pictures showed.

Turkey's Labor Minister Omer Dincer said a comprehensive inspection was made last October and showed no security defects at the mine but it remained unclear whether negligence caused the accident, the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet Daily News reported on its website Tuesday.

Dincer was quoted by Anatolia as putting the number of trapped miners at 30 on Monday, lower than the previously reported 32. However, officials said more people might be trapped as well, according to Hurriyet Daily News.

The cause of the accident was unclear yet, but it could be gas explosion or malfunction in the electrical system, Turkish media reported Monday, citing officials.

The blast also injured 11 other miners, according to Anatolia.

Turkey has seen several mine accidents in recent months, with 13 miners killed in a gas explosion in a coal mine in the northwestern Balikesir province in February and 19 workers killed when a coal mine in northwest Bursa province caved in after the workers set off some dynamite last December.

In Turkey's worst mining disaster, a gas explosion killed 270 workers in Zonguldak in 1992.



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