​Death toll rises in Turkish coal mine explosion

The death toll at the Soma coal mine disaster has risen from 150 to close to 280 miners.

Turkish energy minister Taner Yildiz has put the latest figure at 274 as of late yesterday, local time, according to Bloomberg.

It is understood that close to 800 miners were in the mine when the coal explosion occurred, as it happened during shift change.

Despite the high death toll, it is believed that around 450 workers managed to escape the mine alive, although this number is yet to be confirmed.

Despite hopes fading “fresh air, oxygen is being pumped into the mine. This is the most important thing for our workers down there," Energy Minister Taner Yildiz told reporters, on his way to Manisa,according to Reuters.

"We are facing carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide poisoning … We have to get our friends out of there swiftly."

However he has now stated that “hope are diminishing” as difficulties increase in extracting the workers as the explosion cut all power to the mine’s elevators.

The mine owner, Soma Komur, has issued a statement calling the disaster a “tragic accident”.

"Unfortunately, some of our workers have lost their lives in this tragic accident," the statement said.

"The accident happened despite maximum safety measures and inspections, but we have been able to take prompt action," it added.

The disaster has seen protests erupt at the site.

Around 800 protesters have swarmed the nearby town of Soma, throwing stones at police and yelling anti-government slogans, according to SBS.

Police dispersed the protesters by using tear gas and water cannons.

The explosion is believed to have been ignited by a faulty electrical transformer, in a similar fashion to New Zealand’s Pike River coal mine explosion.

The resultant fire created excessive levels of carbon monoxide in the underground mine, suffocating many of the workers.

The International Labour Organization has sent its condolences to the families of the miners killed in the tragedy, with the ILO ddirector-general stating that “this tragedy is a reminder of the paramount importance of occupational safety and health in the mining sector”.

Three national days of mourning have been declared in Turkey.

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