ISTANBUL/ AMASRA: Rescuers on Saturday found the body of the last missing miner at a coal mine in northern Turkey, bringing the death toll to 41 from a methane blast the previous day.
Shortly after his arrival at the site on Saturday afternoon, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that the last missing person had been found dead.
“Our priority was to find the miners in the gallery. We finally reached the last one. He also died, bringing the number of deaths to 41,” he said, ending rescue operations more than 20 hours after the deadly explosion.
Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu earlier said 58 miners had survived the blast, “either by themselves or thanks to rescuers”.
He said 28 people had been injured as a result of the blast.
Television images late on Friday showed anxious crowds, some with tears in their eyes congregating around a damaged white building near the entrance to the pit in search of news of their friends and loved ones.
Most initial information about those trapped inside was coming from workers who had managed to climb out relatively unharmed but Amasra Mayor Recai Cakir said many of those who survived had suffered “serious injuries”.
Turkey’s Maden Is mining workers´ union attributed the blast to a build-up of methane gas but other officials said it was premature to draw definitive conclusions over the cause of the accident.
Rescuers sent in reinforcements from surrounding villages to help in the search and rescue.
Television footage showed paramedics giving oxygen to the miners who had climbed out, then rushing them to the nearest hospitals.
Turkey’s AFAD disaster management service said the initial spark that caused the blast appeared to have come from a malfunctioning transformer.
It later withdrew that report and said methane gas had ignited for “unknown reasons”.
The local public prosecutor’s office said it was treating the incident as an accident and launching a formal investigation.
Turkey suffered its deadliest coal mining disaster in 2014 when 301 workers died in a blast in the western town of Soma. (Int’l Monitoring Desk)