West News Wire: Funerals for the miners who died in the coal mine explosion in northern Turkey started on Saturday as the number of fatalities increased to at least 41.
In the town of Amasra, in the Black Sea coastal province of Bartin, anxious relatives had waited all night in the cold outside the state-owned Turkish Hard Coal Enterprise’s (TTK) mine, hoping for news. At the time of the explosion on Friday night, 110 miners were engaged in operations several hundred meters below earth.
By Saturday midday, their wait had transformed into destruction. Women sobbed during the miner Selcuk Ayvaz’s funeral, as his coffin was draped in the red and white Turkish flag.
When the body of one missing miner was found, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced as he arrived at the scene.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrived at the scene and said the body of one missing miner had been reached, confirming 41 were dead. Erdogan was flanked by officials, miners and rescuers, as he vowed to bring an end to mining disasters.
“We don’t want to see deficiencies or unnecessary risks,” Erdogan said, and added that an investigation would reveal those responsible for the blast.
Eleven were injured and hospitalized, with five in serious condition, while 58 others managed to get out of the mine on their own or were rescued unharmed.
Energy Minister Fatih Donmez said rescue efforts were almost complete. Earlier, he had said that a fire was burning in an area where more than a dozen miners had been trapped. Work to isolate and cool the fire continued, he said.
Preliminary assessments indicated that the explosion was likely caused by firedamp, which is a reference to flammable gases found in coal mines, Donmez said overnight. Three prosecutors were investigating the blast.
A miner who works the day shift said he saw the news and hurried to the site to help with the rescue.
“We saw a frightful scene, it cannot be described, it’s very sad,” said Celal Kara, 40. “They’re all my friends, they all had dreams,” Kara, who has been a for 14 years, told The Associated Press after exiting the mine, his face covered in soot.
Ambulances were on standby at the site. Rescue teams were dispatched to the area, including from neighboring provinces, Turkey’s disaster management agency, AFAD, said. Dark smoke rose from the entrance of the mine, which is surrounded by forests.