At least four mine workers were killed by an explosion and fire at a coal mine in western Turkey on Tuesday, according to a member of the Turkish parliament. Hundreds more remain trapped.
The lawmaker, Muzaffer Yurttas, told Turkish television news channel NTV that “they died of choking and burns.”
The accident occurred in Soma, which is in the western province of Manisa. A regional governor told NTV hundreds of miners were working when an electrical fault caused an explosion. But, according to Reuters, Yurttas told CNN Turk an unknown number of workers were trapped.
“Emergency services are preparing to evacuate between 300 and 400 miners believed to be still trapped 6,600 feet underground, according to the region’s chief firefighter, Temel Korkmaz and district Governor Mehmet Bahattin Atci,” Bloomberg News reported. “The mine’s elevators aren’t functioning as a result of the fire, the officials said.”
The accident was the latest in a long series that have plagued the country’s growing mining industries. Between 1991 and 2008, 2,554 Turkish miners lost their lives, according to a supplement published in the British Mining Journal last year, with one accident in 1992 causing more than 260 deaths.
During a six-month period in 2009 and 2010, about 60 workers were killed in three separate explosions.
Last November, about 300 mine workers in the Black Sea Province of Zonguldak barricaded themselves inside a coal mine to protest poor working conditions and a lack of safety measures.
Update at 1:14 p.m. ET. Lawmaker Retracts:
Reuters reports that the lawmaker who said 20 bodies had been retrieved has retracted that statement. He now says four workers have been killed and an unknown number are missing.