Rescuers pulled more dead and injured from a coalmine in western Turkey on Wednesday more than 19 hours after an explosion, bringing the death toll to 205 in what could become the nation’s worst ever mining disaster.
Hundreds more were still believed to be trapped in the mine in Soma, about 480 kilometres (298 miles) southwest of Istanbul. The explosion, which triggered a fire, occurred shortly after 3 pm (1200 GMT) on Tuesday.
“We are heading towards this accident likely being the deadliest ever in Turkey,” Energy Minister Taner Yildiz told reporters at the scene.
Yildiz said the fire was still burning underground, which miners said was hampering the rescue operation and denting hopes of finding more survivors. A pall of smoke hung above the area.
The blast happened during a shift change, leading to uncertainty over the exact numbers of miners trapped inside. Yildiz earlier said 787 workers were in the mine at the time and that the death toll may rise further.
“I have to say that our hopes are dimming in terms of the rescue efforts,” he said.
Rescue workers pumped oxygen into the mine to try to keep those trapped by the blaze alive, as thousands of family members and co-workers gathered outside the town’s hospital. Many of the dead had suffered carbon monoxide poisoning, Yildiz said.
Some 93 people were rescued, including several rescuers, and 85 of them were being treated for their injuries, the Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency said in an email.