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ANKARA, May 15. /ITAR-TASS/. The death toll of a disaster at a coalmine in the Turkish province of Manisa has reached 282 people, Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Taner Yildiz told reporters on Thursday.
“The death toll has risen to 282. In the last 12 hours, no man has been found alive in the coalmine. Forensic experts have completed identification of 217 dead miners so far and passed their bodies to relatives for funerals,” the minister said.
Health Minister Mehmet Muezzinoglu said that 27 people got poisoned with carbon dioxide after the coalmine gas blast are being treated at hospitals. Their lives are not in danger.
Yildiz noted that rescue teams have made only a brief two-hour break overnight to Thursday and continued the search-and-rescue operation.
The rescue operation of miners has been underway for 36 hours with around 500 specialists involved in it. Around one hundred more miners may be trapped underground. Turkish authorities “would like to finalize the evacuation of mines within Thursday,” the minister said.
“After evacuation of miners and until the end of technical works the coalmine will be sealed. Upon results of expert work it will become clear what led to the coalmine disaster, an explosion of an electric transformer or something else. We will make public all results,” Yildiz said. He also noted that he was ready to resign, if the guilt of his ministry is proved in the coalmine incident.
Cause of accident
The tragedy occurred at around 3.00 pm local time on May 13. An electric power substation exploded at the coalmine that triggered a fire filling the shaft with carbon dioxide. Meanwhile, rock collapsed in the coalmine. As many as 787 miners were underground at the moment of the crash. They had breathing masks in case of emergency.
Rescuers are pumping clean air in the shafts, but this measure has lower effectiveness due to the fire still burning underground. Miners are staying at a depth of about 2,000 meters. Rescuers already succeeded to get to the deepest places of the coalmine, but it is impossible to work there over a strong smoke.
A three-day national mourning was declared in Turkey and all massive entertaining events were cancelled. Some public activists appeal to wear black clothes as a sign of solidarity with families of casualties of the coalmine incident on these days.
Strikes and clashes over mine collapse
Members of several large Turkish trade unions, including the confederation of trade unions of revolutionary workers, public servants, the chamber of engineers and architects and some part of medical workers are expected to go on a strike on Thursday. The strike will be organized as a protest to state authorities over the coalmine disaster with the demand of dismissing several government members, the confederation of trade unions of revolutionary workers said.
Demonstrations were held in the cities of Ankara, Istanbul and Izmir over the tragedy on Wednesday evening and overnight to Thursday. Several hundreds of people in each of these cities want to stage unauthorized actions at governmental institutions demanding dismissal of ministers. Local clashes between groups of protesters and police took place. Police used tear gas and water cannons against demonstrators.