Official: Hopes fading for 30 trapped Turkish coal miners following explosion

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Official: Hopes fade for 30 trapped Turkish miners

ANKARA, Turkey — Hope for the survival of 30 trapped Turkish miners was fading Tuesday as rescue workers struggled to reach them a day after a methane gas explosion collapsed parts of a major coal mine in northern Turkey, an engineer said.

The explosion at the Karadon mine near the Black Sea port of Zonguldak buried the miners nearly 1,770 feet (540 meters) below the surface Monday afternoon.

Rescuers pumped air into the mine to try to dispel the gas and began digging through a collapsed chamber Tuesday to reach the miners, Chief Engineer Husnu Unal said.

Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said collapsed rocks were hampering the rescue work.

“Their chance of staying alive is decreasing,” Unal said, adding the explosion might have been triggered by the use of dynamite during the digging in the mine.

“As time passes, our fears and concerns for our miner brothers are increasing,” Yildiz said before meeting with relatives of the trapped miners.

Labor Minister Omer Dincer, however, said there are reports that the methane gas concentration was not too high in some areas and that the workers might have survived.

“We are keeping our hopes alive,” Dincer said. “We hope that our fears will not be realized.”

Rescue workers evacuated 11 miners after Monday’s explosion, including two overnight.

Mothers and wives of the miners wailed near the entrance of the mine.

Gulsen Karabektasoglu was waiting for news about the fate of her husband, Ahmet, her brother and brother-in-law.

“My husband was a cook but started working in the mine due to economic hardships. He was injured several times underground but did not quit,” the state-run Anatolia news agency quoted Karabektasoglu as saying. “Now, we are waiting with my 6-year-old daughter, Ebral.”

Dincer said there was no visible violation of safety rules — a common factor in past mine accidents in Turkey.

It was the third mine accident in Turkey in the past sixth months. In February, a methane gas explosion collapsed an underground chamber in a coal mine in northwestern Balikesir province, killing 13 workers. In December, a similar accident killed 19 miners in neighboring Bursa province.

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

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