Turkish coal mine fire kills at least four, hundreds feared trapped

Reuters News
Posted: May 13, 2014 12:19 PM

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - An explosion and fire in a coal mine in western Turkey killed at least four miners on Tuesday and may have trapped as many as 300 more, officials said.

The blast at the mine in Soma, around 120 km (75 miles) northeast of the Aegean coastal city of Izmir, happened during a change in shifts, leading to uncertainty over the exact number of workers still inside, labor union officials said.

"They are pumping oxygen into the mine, but the fire is still burning. They say it is an electrical fault but it could be that coal is burning as well," Tamer Kucukgencay, chairman of the regional labor union, told Reuters by telephone.

Television footage showed dozens of fellow workers and family members gathering outside the hospital in Soma, a coal mining community in Turkey's western province of Manisa.

Local member of parliament Muzaffer Yurttas told broadcaster CNN Turk that four people had been killed and 20 others taken to hospital, retracting his earlier statement that 20 people had been killed.

Nurettin Akcul, head of the Turkish Mineworkers' Union, said

five workers had been killed in the blast, which he said happened around 2 km (1.2 miles) below ground.

Energy Minister Taner Yildiz confirmed that a fire had been triggered by an electrical fault and that workers had been killed, but declined to say how many.

Mehmet Bahattin Atci, mayor of Soma, said 200-300 workers were still inside following the explosion. The head of the local fire service also told Turkish television that around 300 workers were still trapped.

(Reporting by Ece Toksabay and Ozge Ozbilgin in Ankara; Writing by Nick Tattersall; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)