An explosion at a coal mine in northwestern Turkey has killed 19 workers, burying them 220 meters below the surface, officials have said. A dynamite explosion caused the mine, near the town of Mustafakemalpasa in the province of Bursa, to collapse late on Thursday night, a local governor said. But Omer Dincer, Turkey’s labour minister, said the cause of the blast at the Bukkoy mine was still not clear and that an investigation would be carried out. “It was not a very powerful explosion, but the entire gallery, the buttressing totally collapsed,” he said. Rescue teams sent to the area were unable to immediately enter the mine due to high concentrations of methane gas, and seven workers were treated in hospital for gas poisoning. “The rescuers are running into difficulty because the accident area is very narrow and has suffered major damage,” Dincer said. He added it would take the teams until late Friday to retrieve all the bodies.
Mining accidents are common in Turkey, with safety violations and outdated equipment often contributing factors. The worst disaster, at Zonguldak in 1992, killed 263 workers. According to broadcaster CNN Turk, some 3,700 miners have been killed in work-related accidents since 1941.