Turkey coal mine death toll at 274, says energy minister

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Fire continues in some mine shafts into which rescue teams were pumping oxygen

Fire continues in some mine shafts into which rescue teams were pumping oxygen

MANISA - Death toll from Tuesday's coal mine disaster in western Turkey has reached 274, energy minister Taner Yildiz said on Wednesday night.

"We have reached the dead bodies of 274 miners so far and 196 of them have been delivered to their families," he told the press at the scene of the rescue efforts near the mine entrance.

He stressed that the fire continued in some mine shafts into which rescue teams were pumping oxygen.

Yildiz said that they would resume the rescue operations at 2 a.m. local time and the rescue teams would try to enter the mine from two different spots.

"Then, they will rest for 2 to 2.5 hours and will continue until daylight," he added.

Meanwhile, Turkey's Health Minister Mehmet Muezzinoglu, who was also at the scene, announced that 61 injured miners were under medical treatment at nearby hospitals.

Turkey has declared three days of national mourning -- during which flags will fly at half-mast and parliament will be closed -- for the victims of what could be "the worst incident in the country’s mining history."

Exact cause of the blast has yet to be officially announced but an explosion and fire followed an electrical fault. Yildiz ruled out the possibility of a firedamp or methane gas explosion, saying the deaths were due to carbon monoxide poisoning.

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