Soma Mine Death Toll Rises in Turkey, National Mourning Declared
The number of victims who died after an explosion and fire in a mine in Turkey's Manica province has reached 274, Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said.
It is unclear how many of the 787 workers who were in the mine at the time of the incident are still trapped inside. More than 450 miners have been rescued according to the mine operator, but officials say some 100 are still unaccounted for.
A three-day national mourning was declared over the mining disaster, and preparations for the upcoming Youth and Sports Day celebrations on May 19 were mostly cancelled, with the festive day mostly being reduced to one main ceremony, Hurriyet Daily News has reported.
After latest deaths were confirmed, the accident is described as Turkey's worst mining disaster in history.
Turkish President Abdullah Gul announced he was cancelling his visit to China and will travel to Soma on May 15 instead.
His decision follows reports that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has put off his trip to Albania and will head to the mine as early as May 14.
The blast at the privately owned mine is believed to have been caused by an electrical fault.
Minister Yildiz earlier said that many of the deaths had been caused by carbon monoxide poisoning.
Turkey's state-run Anadolu agency has reported that "hopes are fading" to rescue more more miners.
The Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions, Kani Beko, declared that "a massacre" had happened following the explosion.
Tuesday's accident became Turkey's worst mining disaster, with its death toll surpassing the one that ensued a methane explosion in the north-western province of Zonguldak which left 263 workers dead in 1992.
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