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Official: 1 dead, up to 300 trapped in coal mine

Published: Tuesday, May 13, 2014 12:02 p.m. CDT

ANKARA, Turkey — An explosion and fire at a coal mine in western Turkey killed at least one miner Tuesday and left up to 300 workers trapped underground, a Turkish official said.

Twenty people were rescued from the mine in the town of Soma in Manisa province but one later died in the hospital, Soma administrator Mehmet Bahattin Atci told reporters. The town is 250 kilometers (155 miles) south of Istanbul.

Atci said a power distribution unit exploded, leaving between 200 and 300 workers still inside the mine. Private NTV television said the accident occurred some 2 kilometers (1 1/4 miles) deep inside the mine.

Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said a number of miners had died but refused to give an exact number or confirm a report that as many as 20 miners were killed from smoke inhalation or burns.

"It is a serious accident," Yildiz told reporters before leaving for Soma to oversee the rescue operation. "Our priority is to reach our miner brothers ... any figure we give could well be wrong."

Yildiz said rescuers were pumping fresh air into the mine and rescue teams from neighboring regions were rushing to the area. Journalists were being kept away from the site but a witness told NTV that ambulances were seen entering and leaving the area.

Mining accidents are common in Turkey, which is plagued by poor safety conditions.

Turkey's worst mining disaster was a 1992 gas explosion that killed 270 workers near the Black Sea port of Zonguldak.

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Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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