Turkey mine collapse: death toll hits 205

Rescuers are hunting desperately for scores of Turkish coal miners still missing after an explosion caused a pit to collapse, killing at least 205, BBC reports.

Dozens escaped the pit in Soma, 450km (280 miles) from Ankara, but officials say more than 200 are unaccounted for.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has announced three days of mourning for what is expected to become Turkey’s most deadly mining disaster.

Frantic relatives have gathered at the mine, waiting for news of loved ones.

As ambulances took away an increasing number of bodies, some of the bereaved wailed uncontrollably and were carried away by their families.

Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said 787 people had been inside the mine when an electrical fault triggered the blast.

More than 200 are still thought to be in the mine, but he said hopes were fading of finding any more survivors.

He added that carbon monoxide poisoning had claimed many lives. Oxygen was being pumped into the mine to help those still trapped.

The electrical fault triggered a power cut, making the mine cages unusable. Those trapped are reported to be 2km (1.2 miles) below the surface and 4km from the mine entrance.

The blast happened at about 12:30 GMT on Tuesday.

TV footage overnight showed rescuers helping workers from the mine, their faces and hard-hats covered in soot and dust. Some were carried on stretchers to waiting ambulances.

But by mid-morning, reporters at the scene said only the dead were being recovered.

Police were keeping the crowds back to allow emergency services in and out of the area.

Sena Isbiler, a mother of one of the miners, stood on top of piles of wood, anxiously craning her neck to see those being led out of the mine.

“I have been waiting for my son since early afternoon,” she told AFP news agency. “I haven’t heard anything about him yet.”

Mr Erdogan has postponed a trip to Albania over the accident and will visit Soma later.

The mine’s owners, Soma Komur Isletmeleri, said they would investigate the accident, adding that the accident occurred despite the “highest safety measures and constant controls”.

“Our main priority is to get our workers out so that they may be reunited with their loved ones,” the owners said in a statement.

Coal mining is a major industry in the Soma area, helping to supply a nearby lignite-fired thermal power plant, but safety has long been a concern.

An MP with Turkey’s opposition CHP party has accused the government of rejecting a recent proposal for a parliamentary inquiry into mine accidents in Soma.

Ozgur Ozel told Today’s Zaman newspaper that the motion had substantial support among opposition parties.

Turkey’s worst mining disaster was in 1992, when 270 miners were killed near Zonguldak, on the Black Sea.