Death toll from Turkish coal mine disaster rises to 238

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Amnesty International protested at what it called a "staggering execution spree" in Iran so far this year that has seen almost 700 people put to death (AFP Photo/Yoav Lemmer)
At least 238 people were killed and hundreds more remained trapped underground after an explosion and fire in a coal mine in the western Turkish province of Manisa, the energy minister said Wednesday.
Dozens escaped the pit in the western town of Soma, but officials say about 120 are still unaccounted for.
On a visit to Soma, PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan offered his condolences, and said a thorough investigation into the tragedy had begun.
Rescuers worked through the night to try to reach hundreds more miners still trapped underground.
Rescuers are pumping fresh air into the mine in the Turkish town of Soma, south of Istanbul, as they struggle to get hundreds of trapped miners out. Officials say 787 people were inside the mine when an electrical unit exploded, causing a fire inside the mine in western Manisa province.

As ambulances took away an increasing number of bodies, some of the bereaved wailed uncontrollably and were carried away by their families.
More than 350 miners were rescued, but no survivors have been found in the last few hours.
Erdogan said 80 of them had been treated for injuries, none of which were serious. Nineteen of these had already been discharged from hospital.
Earlier he announced three days of mourning for the victims.
Turkish President Abdullah Gul has ordered the Manisa governor to mobilize all available resources to help rescue the miners. Rescuers have helped evacuate hundreds of miners so far.
It was estimated that 580 workers were underground at the time of the blast, though it is thought many of them managed to escape.
It is not clear exactly how many are still trapped in the mine in the town of Soma, in Manisa province, about 250km (150 miles) south of Istanbul.
Large crowds of worried family members have gathered near the privately-owned mine, many in tears.
TV footage showed rescuers helping workers from the mine, their faces and hard-hats covered in soot and dust. Some were able to walk but others were carried on stretchers to a fleet of waiting ambulances.
Turkey\’s coal mines are notoriously dangerous, prompting some in parliament to demand an investigation into poor safety conditions.
Turkey\’s worst mining disaster was a 1992 gas explosion that killed 270 workers near the Black Sea port of Zonguldak.

Source: Agencies

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