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Death toll rises in Turkey mine collapse

More than 200 miners have been killed after an underground explosion and mine collapse in Turkey. Some workers were successfully rescued in the wake of the disaster, but hundreds were left trapped below the surface.

Speaking on Wednesday, Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said at least 201 miners had been confirmed dead from the 787 who had been present in the mine at the time of the explosion that caused the collapse.

"We are worried that the death toll will rise [further]...I have to say that our hopes are dimming in terms of the rescue efforts," Yildiz told reporters.

The minister promised transparency as rescuers tried to save the lives of those still trapped below. He said some 363 people had been evacuated from the mine, although this included the deceased.

Rescue workers who were called to the mine at Soma, some 250 kilometers (155 miles) south of Istanbul, were still trying to clear smoke from the tunnels as Yildiz spoke.

Television footage showed a crowd cheering as some of the workers were brought out of the mine.

Yildiz had earlier described the situation as "worrisome," adding that rescue efforts would go on through the morning. "Fresh air, oxygen is being pumped into the mine. This is the most important thing for our workers down there," he told reporters. A major threat to the lives of the workers, along with suffocation, was said to be carbon monoxide poisoning.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday cancelled a trip to Albania in light of the news. "Evacuation efforts are underway. I hope that we are able to rescue them," Erdogan said in a televised address.

Earlier, Manisa provincial mayor Cengiz Ergun had told the news channel CNN that the death toll stood at 157, citing health officials.

Authorities said the collapse was pre-empted by an explosion and fire cause by a power distribution-center fault. Authorities reported that the fire continued to rage on Wednesday morning, hindering rescue efforts.

The accident happened during a shift change on Tuesday afternoon, meaning the number of workers inside the mine had not initially been known.

rc/jm (AP, Reuters, dpa, AFP)