Funerals for miners killed in a coal mine explosion in northern Turkey began Saturday as officials raised the death toll to at least 41 people. Desperate relatives had waited all night in the cold outside the state-owned Turkish Hard Coal Enterprise's (TTK) mine in the town of Amasra, in the Black Sea coastal province of Bartin, hoping for news. There were 110 miners working several hundred meters below ground at the time of the explosion on Friday evening, per the AP. Their families' wait turned to devastation by Saturday afternoon. 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, adding 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'd 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 the explosion was likely caused by firedamp, which is a reference to flammable gases found in coal mines, Donmez said overnight. Three prosecutors are 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," said Celal Kara, 40, his face covered in soot after exiting the mine. "They're all my friends ... they all had dreams." Turkey's worst mine disaster was in 2014, when 301 miners died after a fire erupted inside a coal mine in the western town of Soma. Five months later, 18 miners were killed in central Karaman province after a flood in a coal mine. The head of DISK, a left-wing trade union, said in a statement they were "sad and angry," as deaths were preventable and the union's safety suggestions were ignored. Even though more inspections were mandated after the Soma tragedy, DISK leader Arzu Cerkezoglu claimed some precautions were ignored for profitability, calling Friday's explosion a "massacre."
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