166 dead, many trapped in Turkish coal mine

A fire caused by a transformer explosion in a coal mine in western Turkey has left 166 people dead, Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said Wednesday.

The Natural Disaster and Emergency Coordination Directorate said 80 injured people have been rescued and eight uninjured people were rescued. Crowds gathered around the rescue operation in the post-midnight darkness Wednesday.

Earlier, Manisa Mayor Cengiz Ergun told CNN Turk that the death toll was 157. CNN Turk aired the rescue of one miner to a cheering crowd.

More than 200 workers were still stranded late Tuesday, according to preliminary findings by Turkey's Manisa Natural Disaster and Emergency Coordination Directorate.

Ergun said 30 workers had been rescued, but he earlier said as many as 400 workers might still be underground.

The mine shaft is about two-thirds of a mile -- or 1 kilometer -- underground, the disaster agency said.

Earlier, a member of Parliament from Manisa said 16 people were being treated for injuries. The dead and injured seemed to be suffering from burns and suffocation, said Muzaffer Yurttas.

About 100 rescuers, dozens of ambulances and a helicopters were dispatched to the scene, the agency said.

"The rescue teams are very experienced," said Yildiz, the minister. "They know what they need to do."

In the initial moments after the blast, "it was important for there to be clean air going underground," Yildiz said. Officials turned an exit pipe "into a clean air pipe," so "there is fresh air being given in places where there is no fire," he added.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, speaking in Ankara, said the country is working "to rescue our stranded brothers."


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