Turkey coal mine blast death toll reaches 41, President Erdogan says at the scene

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By Euronews  with AP
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan kisses the hand of a miner's mother after the explosion in Amasra, 15 October 2022
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan kisses the hand of a miner's mother after the explosion in Amasra, 15 October 2022   -  Copyright  Turkish Presidency via AP

The last miner to be reported missing after an explosion at a coal mine in northwestern Turkey was found dead on Saturday, bringing the death toll from the blast to 41, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced on the scene.

"Our priority was to find the miners in the gallery. We finally reached the last one. He also died, bringing the death toll to 41," the Turkish leader said, ending rescue operations at the state-owned TTK Amasra Muessese Mudurlugu more than 20 hours after the explosion on Friday night.

Erdogan vowed to bring an end to mining disasters while saying he believes in “fate”.

“We don’t want to see deficiencies or unnecessary risks,” he said and added that an investigation would reveal if anyone is responsible for the blast. 

The accident occurred at 6 pm local time (5 pm CEST) in the town of Amasra in the Black Sea province of Bartin.

Television images from Friday night showed hundreds of people — many crying — gathering around a damaged building near the entrance to the pit. Friends and relatives stayed on site overnight, grimly awaiting news of loved ones. 

Eleven others were injured and hospitalised, while 58 others managed to get out of the mine on their own or were rescued unharmed.

Earlier, Energy Minister Fatih Donmez said preliminary assessments indicated that the explosion was likely caused by firedamp, a reference to flammable gases found in coal mines.

A miner who works the day shift said he saw the news and hurried to the site to help with the rescue. “We saw a frightful scene, it cannot be described, it's very sad,” said Celal Kara, 40. 

“They're all my friends... they all had dreams," the miner of 14 years said after exiting the mine, his face covered in soot.

Mining trade union Maden-Is said a build-up of methane gas was behind the blast, but other officials said it was too soon to draw conclusions over the cause of the accident.

In Turkey’s worst mine disaster, a total of 301 people died in 2014. 

It was caused by a fire inside a coal mine in the town of Soma in western Turkey.