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Erdogan: 238 killed in mine disaster

The Turkish Prime Minister says another 80 workers were injured at the Soma mine.

Miners wait at the gate of a mine after an explosion in Manisa on 13 May, 2014. Four miner were killed and as many as 300 trapped after a mine collapse in the western Turkish city of Manisa, a local official said. Picture: AFP.

SOMA -The death toll in a coal mine disaster in western Turkey rose to 238 on Wednesday, with 80 more injured, Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday.

"According to the first indications, 238 of our workers lost their lives and 80 were injured," Erdogan told a news conference after visiting the mine in Soma, about 480 kilometres southwest of Istanbul.

Rescue workers pumped oxygen into the mine to try to keep those trapped by the blaze alive, as thousands of family members and co-workers gathered outside the town's hospital. Many of the dead had suffered carbon monoxide poisoning, Yildiz said.

The energy minister had warned late on Tuesday that 787 workers had been in the mine at the time of the blast, believed to have been caused by an electrical fault.

Some 80 people were pulled out wounded including several rescuers, four of them critically injured.

UNCERTAINTY

The explosion took place during a change in shifts, meaning there was uncertainty about the exact number of miners still trapped inside, although Turkey's disaster management agency (AFAD) put the figure at more than 200 late on Tuesday.

A cold storage warehouse, usually used for food, and freezer trucks served as makeshift morgues as hospital facilities overflowed. Medical staff intermittently emerged from the hospital to read the names of survivors being treated inside, with families and fellow workers clamouring for information.

Teams of psychiatrists were being pulled together to help counsel the families of victims. Paramilitary police guarded the entrance to the mine to keep distressed relatives at a safe distance from the rescue effort.

There were calls on social media for protests in front of the Istanbul headquarters of Soma Komur Isletmeleri, the operator of the mine. The company said in a brief statement late on Tuesday that there had been "a grave accident" caused by an explosion in a substation but gave few other details.