The death toll in the coal mine explosion and fire in western Turkey increased to 238 on Wednesday, the Prime Minister said. The fate of around 190 miners remain unclear in one of Turkey’s worst mining disasters.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan made the announcement on Wednesday during a visit to the coal mine in Soma, about 250 kilometers (155 miles) south of Istanbul.
Earlier, Mr. Erdogan declared three days of national mourning, ordering flags to be lowered to half-staff. Mr. Erdogan postponed a one-day visit to Albania and visited Soma instead.
The explosion tore through the mine as workers were preparing for a shift change, officials said, which likely raised the casualty toll because there were more miners inside the mine than usual.
Mining accidents are common in Turkey, which is plagued by poor safety conditions. Turkey’s worst mining disaster was a 1992 gas explosion that killed 263 workers near the Black Sea port of Zonguldak.
In Istanbul, hundreds of demonstrators gathered outside the headquarters of the company which owns the mine, Soma Holding.
Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said 787 people were inside the coal mine in Soma at the time of the explosion and 363 of them had been rescued so far.
“Regarding the rescue operation, I can say that our hopes are diminishing,” Mr. Yildiz said.
Turkey’s Labour and Social Security Ministry said the mine had been inspected five times since 2012, including in March of 2014, and that no issues violating work safety and security were detected.
The country’s main opposition party said that Mr. Erdogan’s ruling party had recently voted down a proposal for the establishment of a parliamentary inquiry into a series of small scale accidents at mines around Soma.
A list of some recent fatal mine disasters around the world:
2013- 83 workers are buried by a massive landslide at a gold mining site in a mountainous area of Tibet, east of Lhasa, according to Chinese state media.
2012- At least 60 people dead after a landslide at a gold mine in a remote corner of northeast Congo.
2011- Fifty-two people are feared dead in southwestern Pakistan after a gas explosion deep in a coal mine in Sorange, near Quetta.
2010- 29 men are killed in New Zealand’s worst mining disaster in decades after a huge gas—fueled explosion deep underground ends hopes of rescuing the South Island coal miners, who were caught in a similar blast five days earlier.
2010- 33 miners are rescued after being trapped for 69 days in a gold and copper mine in Chile’s northern Atacama desert.
2010- 29 miners are killed in an explosion at West Virginia’s Upper Big Branch coal mine.
2007- At least 90 are killed in post—Soviet Ukraine’s worst mining disaster, after a methane blast rips through tunnels deep below ground in a coal mine near the eastern city of Donetsk.
2007- Six miners, three rescuers are killed in collapses at the Crandall Canyon coal mine in Emery County, Utah.
2006- 65 coal miners are killed from a gas explosion in San Juan de Sabinas, in northern Mexico’s Coahuila state.
2006- 12 killed in a methane explosion at the Sago coal mine in West Virginia.
2005- 214 miners die after an explosion deep in a coal shaft in southwestern China.