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Turkey coal mine fire kills 201, hundreds remain trapped

LiveMint logoLiveMint 14-05-2014 Selcan Hacaoglu

Ankara: A fire at a Turkish coal mine has killed 201 people, with emergency services battling to rescue hundreds more miners trapped underground.

The death toll in the western town of Soma has reached 201, with 80 injured, state-run Anadolu news agency reported, citing energy minister Taner Yildiz, adding that it could turn out to be the biggest mining disaster in Turkish history. The trapped workers may be 3.5km away from the mine entrance, Anadolu reported.

The mine is owned by Soma Komur Isletmeleri AS, part of the Soma Group. The company said in an e-mailed statement that an explosion at a power distribution unit started the blaze, and the cause of the accident is under investigation. Company officials couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

Soma’s website says that it’s the largest underground coal producer in Turkey, and has interests in real estate including an Istanbul office tower. The company says it produces 250,000 tonnes of coal a month from the Soma field, which is mostly sold to a local power plant.

Turkey’s labour ministry said the mine has been regularly inspected and no violation of safety regulations was observed in the latest inspection less than a month ago, Anadolu reported.

Safety conditions

Safety conditions at the mines in Soma were discussed in Turkey’s parliament as recently as last month, Hurriyet cited Ozgur Ozel, a Republican People’s Party lawmaker, as saying. He said a proposal for an inquiry, backed by his party and other opposition groups, was rejected.

“As Manisa’s members of parliament, we’re sick of going to miners’ funerals,” Ozel said, according to Hurriyet.

More than 100 miners have been killed in accidents in Turkey since 2003, according to Anadolu. The country’s worst mine accident occurred in 1992, when 263 miners were killed in a gas explosion in Kozlu in the northwest.

In March, a group of eight labour and professional organizations published a statement saying that Turkey had the worst record for workplace accidents in Europe, with an average of three workers killed every day, according to Turkiye newspaper. Bloomberg

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