Istanbul - At least 20 miners were feared dead and up to 400 others trapped after a coal mine collapsed in the western Turkish province of Manisa on Tuesday, a lawmaker said.
“Twenty workers were killed and around 30 were wounded in the accident. They died of choking and burns,” Muzaffer Yurttas, a member of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), told local TV station NTV.
Fire officials were desperately trying to pump clean air into the mine shaft for those who remain trapped some two kilometres (one mile) below the surface and four kilometres from the entrance.
The mine collapse in Soma district was caused by an explosion following an electric fault, a regional governor told NTV.
Local media said there were 580 people trapped in the mine at the time of the explosion but many had managed to escape.
“I don't want to give any numbers. We first have to reach our workers underground,” Energy Minister Taner Yildiz told journalists before heading to Manisa.
“Four separate rescue teams are currently working in the mine. The fire is creating a problem but oxygen is being pumped into the mine shafts that weren't affected.”
Temel Korkmaz, head of the town's fire department, said an initial rescue team was able to enter part of the mine to rescue 30 wounded, who were taken to a nearby hospital.
Yurttas said there were between 300 and 400 people still trapped. Other estimates put the number between 200 and 300.