TURKEY (AFP) – Rescuers found the body of the last miner missing in a coal mine in northern Turkey on Saturday, raising the death toll from a methane explosion the previous day to 41.
The blast ripped through the mine near the small mining town of Amasra on Turkey’s Black Sea coast just before sunset on Friday.
Shortly after arriving on Saturday afternoon, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that the last missing person had been found dead.
“Our priority was to find the miners in the tunnel. We finally reached the last one. He also died, bringing the death toll to 41,” he said, ending rescue operations more than 20 hours after the deadly blast.
Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu previously said 58 miners survived the blast “either alone or thanks to rescuers”.
He said 28 people were injured in the blast.
Television footage Friday night showed worried crowds – some in tears – gathered around a damaged white building near the pit entrance to hear news of friends and loved ones.
Erdogan previously promised on Twitter that the incident would be thoroughly investigated.
Much of the early information about the trapped people came from workers who managed to escape relatively unscathed.
But Amasra Mayor Recai Cakir said many survivors suffered “serious injuries”.
The Turkish Maden Is Miners’ Union attributed the explosion to a build-up of methane.
However, other officials said it was premature to draw firm conclusions about the cause of the accident.
TURKEY’S DISASTER OF 2014
Rescuers sent reinforcements from nearby villages to help with search and rescue.
Television footage showed paramedics administering oxygen to released miners and then taking them to the nearest hospitals.
The local governor said a team of more than 70 rescuers managed to reach a point in the pit about 250 meters below.
AFAD, Turkey’s Civil Protection Service, said the initial spark that caused the explosion appeared to come from a faulty transformer.
He later retracted that report, saying the methane gas had ignited for “unknown reasons”.
Local prosecutors said they treated the incident as an accident and launched a formal investigation.
Turkey suffered its deadliest mining disaster in 2014 when 301 workers died in an explosion in the western town of Soma.