A Turkey mine collapse killed more than 230 coal workers after an explosion Tuesday, with another estimated 200 people still unaccounted for as rescuers search for survivors in one of the worst mining accidents in the country's history.
The coal mine, located in Soma about 155 miles south of Turkey's capital of Istanbul, had been inspected five times since 2012 and no work safety of security violations were detected, the country's labor and security ministry told The Associated Press.
According to the AP, the mine explosion and collapse happened during a shift change as workers were filing in and out of the facility. Officials believe 787 people were inside the mine at the time, and energy minister Taner Yildiz said about 360 have been rescued so far.
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The news service noted that mining accidents in the country are commonplace because of poor safety conditions. Tuesday's death toll has now approached the country's worst mining accident ever, which occurred in 1992 when 263 people died in a gas explosion at a mine near Zonguldak, off the Black Sea.
"May God wish mercy upon our brothers who lost their lives, and I hope our wounded brothers will get well soon," Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said, declaring three days of national mourning for those who died in the accident, reported NBC News.
Yildiz told NBC News that the hope of finding other survivors was dimming as time went on. Emergency crews are reportedly pumping fresh air into the mine to help trapped workers breathe. Most of those who died were killed by carbon monoxide poisoning, NBC noted.
It's not clear what exactly caused the fire that sparked the explosion, but officials told the AP it was something with the power distribution machinery.
"It is a serious accident," Yildiz told reporters. "Our priority is to reach our miner brothers."
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