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'Hopes fading' in Turkey after deadly mine collapse

With the death toll mounting, the Turkish prime minister has promised a thourough investigation follwoing a mining accident. Over 200 miners have been killed and hundreds more remain trapped under the rubble.

Race against time

During a visit to the mine in Soma that collapsed in western Turkey on Tuesday, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan gave an updated death toll, saying 238 people had been killed.

He had canceled a trip to Albania on Tuesday upon receiving news of the mine collapse, and has declared three days of national mourning.

"The accident is being investigated thoroughly. We will not allow any negligence," Erdogan said after visiting the site of the mine.

Fires and the risk of toxic carbon monoxide hindered rescue workers on Wednesday morning from reaching hundreds of people believed to be trapped beneath a collapsed mine, according to Turkey's energy minister, Taner Yildiz. Considering the already mounting death toll, he said there were fears that few survivors would be found.

"We are worried that the death toll will rise ... I have to say that our hopes are dimming in terms of the rescue efforts," Yildiz told reporters, adding that the fire department was still pumping oxygen into the mine.

Six men were rescued later on Wednesday morning, according to news agency DPA. It was not immediately whether they had sustained serious injuries.

The previous day, a sudden explosion caused the mine in western Turkey to collapse. The town of Soma lies some 250 kilometers (155 miles) south of Istanbul.

More than 360 people have been rescued so far. Of those, 80 were reported to have been injured, four of them critically. Authorities believe that roughly 787 people were present at the mine when it collapsed. However, because the disaster occurred during a shift change, they have been unable to confirm an exact number.

Ankara to take legal action

The energy minister also reassured reporters that Ankara would not ignore any negligence that might have caused the tragedy.

"We will do whatever necessary, including all administrative and legal steps," Yildiz said.

Unconfirmed reports have speculated that an electrical fault caused the blast on Tuesday.

The mining company Soma Komur has also said it upheld safety standards.

"Unfortunately, some of our workers have lost their lives in this tragic accident," Soma Komur said in a statement. "The accident happened despite maximum safety measures and inspections, but we have been able to take prompt action."

kms/mkg (AFP, Reuters, AP, dpa)

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