Our wish is that the loss of life will not be higher and that our miners can be saved,” Erdogan said in a tweet on Friday evening.
The explosion occurred at 6:15 p.m. local time on Friday in a mine in the Black Sea town of Amasra, killing 28 people, according to a new report by Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca on Twitter, who said 11 people who had been pulled out of the mine were being treated in hospital.
Rescue teams were working to try to save several dozen workers trapped in galleries located 300 and 350 meters below sea level.
According to Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu, 49 of the 110 miners were trapped underground at the time of the explosion.
“We are really in front of a sad picture”, described Mr. Soylu who went urgently to the scene of the tragedy with the Turkish Minister of Energy, Fatih Donmez.
According to the first observations, it is a firedamp,” explained Donmez.
Afad, Turkey’s state disaster management agency, had initially reported on Twitter that a faulty transformer was the cause of the explosion, before retracting and explaining that methane gas had ignited for “unknown reasons ».
In images broadcast by the Turkish media from the mine entrance, family members of the trapped miners could be seen, many in tears, while rescue workers provided oxygen to the workers who had emerged from the mine and transported them to the nearest hospitals.
“I don’t know what happened,” a miner who was able to get out of the tunnels unharmed on his own told Anadolu news agency. “There was a sudden pressure and I couldn’t see anything.”
As the explosion occurred shortly before sunset, rescue operations were slowed by darkness.
Nearly half of the workers have been evacuated. Most of them are fine, but there are also some seriously injured,” the mayor of Amasra, Recai Cakir, told the private Turkish channel NTV.
According to the local governor, a team of more than 70 people managed to reach a point in the well located at a depth of about 250 meters. It is not known if the rescuers can get any closer to the trapped workers.
An accident investigation has been opened by the local prosecutor’s office.
Workplace accidents are frequent in Turkey, where the strong economic development of the past decade has often been at the expense of safety rules, particularly in construction and mining.
The country became acutely aware of this in 2014 when 301 miners were killed in a coal mine in Soma, in the west of the country, after an explosion and fire caused the collapse of a shaft.
Sentences of up to 22 years and six months in prison were handed down by the Turkish judiciary against five mine officials, found guilty of negligence.