201 dead, many trapped in Turkish coal mine

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201 dead, many trapped in Turkish coal mine
Foto: Soma'da yakınlarını kaybeden vatandaş Başbakan'ın korumaları tarafından dövüldü #BuAyıpSizeYeter http://t.co/THq5FtNtnk
A miner cries as rescue workers carry the dead body of a miner from the mine in Soma, western Turkey, Wednesday, May 14, 2014. An explosion and fire at the coal mine killed at least 232 workers, authorities said, in one of the worst mining disasters in Turkish history. Turkey's Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said 787 people were inside the coal mine at the time of the accident. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)
A woman reacts after she have seen the dead body of a relative miner outside the mine in Soma, western Turkey, early Wednesday, May 14, 2014. Rescuers desperately raced against time to reach more than 200 miners trapped underground Wednesday after an explosion and fire at a coal mine in western Turkey killed at least 200 workers, authorities said, in one of the worst mining disasters in Turkish history. Turkey's Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said 787 people were inside the coal mine in Soma, some 250 kilometers (155 miles) south of Istanbul, at the time of the accident and 363 of them had been rescued so far. (AP Photo/Depo Photos)
Family members, react, as they wait outside the mine in Soma, western Turkey, Wednesday, May 14, 2014. Rescuers desperately raced against time to reach more than 200 miners trapped underground Wednesday after an explosion and fire at a coal mine in western Turkey killed at least 200 workers, authorities said, in one of the worst mining disasters in Turkish history. Turkey's Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said 787 people were inside the coal mine in Soma, some 250 kilometers (155 miles) south of Istanbul, at the time of the accident and 363 of them had been rescued so far. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)
A woman reacts after being told her brother died on May 14, 2014 following an explosion and fire in a coal mine in the western Turkish province of Manisa killed at least 201 people and hundreds remain trapped underground. AFP PHOTO/BULENT KILIC (Photo credit should read BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images)
MANISA, TURKEY - MAY 14: A miner is evacuated from the fire at a coal mine in the Soma district of Manisa, Turkey on May 14, 2014. An explosion and fire in the western Turkish province of Manisa followed an electrical fault on Tuesday afternoon, on May 13, 2014 killed at least 205 miners and injured many others. The deaths of 205 miners in a fire at a coal mine in western Turkey on Tuesday could be the worst mining disaster in the country's history, Turkey's Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said Wednesday. (Photo by Murat Kula/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
A man kisses his son, rescued of the mine, on May 13, 2014 after an explosion in a coal mine in Manisa. At least 157 miners were killed in collapsed coal mine in the western Turkish city of Manisa. 'At least 200-300 workers were working in the mine when an electric fault caused an explosion,' the mayor of Soma, a district of Manisa, told private NTV television. AFP PHOTO/BULENT KILIC (Photo credit should read BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images)
Medics help a rescued miner after an explosion and fire at a coal mine killed at least 17 miners and left up to 300 workers trapped underground, in Soma, in western Turkey, Tuesday, May 13, 2014, a Turkish official said. Twenty people were rescued from the mine but one later died in the hospital, Soma administrator Mehmet Bahattin Atci told reporters. The town is 250 kilometers (155 miles) south of Istanbul. The death toll was expected to rise.(AP Photo/Depo Photos)
Family members gather near the mine after an explosion and fire at a coal mine killed at least 17 miners and left up to 300 workers trapped underground, in Soma, in western Turkey, Tuesday, May 13, 2014, a Turkish official said. Twenty people were rescued from the mine but one later died in the hospital, Soma administrator Mehmet Bahattin Atci told reporters. The town is 250 kilometers (155 miles) south of Istanbul. The death toll was expected to rise.(AP Photo/Depo Photos)
Family members cry as they wait outside a hospital hours after an explosion and fire at a coal mine killed at least 17 miners and left up to 300 workers trapped underground, in Soma, in western Turkey, Tuesday, May 13, 2014, a Turkish official said. Twenty people were rescued from the mine but one later died in the hospital, Soma administrator Mehmet Bahattin Atci told reporters. The town is 250 kilometers (155 miles) south of Istanbul. The death toll was expected to rise.(AP Photo)
Medics, ambulances and relatives at the entrance of the mine hours after an explosion and fire at a coal mine killed at least 17 miners and left up to 300 workers trapped underground, in Soma, in western Turkey, late Tuesday, May 13, 2014, a Turkish official said. Twenty people were rescued from the mine but one later died in the hospital, Soma administrator Mehmet Bahattin Atci told reporters. The town is 250 kilometers (155 miles) south of Istanbul. The death toll was expected to rise.(AP Photo/Depo Photos)
Medics help a rescued miner after an explosion and fire at a coal mine killed at least 17 miners and left up to 300 workers trapped underground, in Soma, in western Turkey, Tuesday, May 13, 2014, a Turkish official said. Twenty people were rescued from the mine but one later died in the hospital, Soma administrator Mehmet Bahattin Atci told reporters. The town is 250 kilometers (155 miles) south of Istanbul. The death toll was expected to rise.(AP Photo/Depo Photos)
Family members cry as they wait outside a hospital hours after an explosion and fire at a coal mine killed at least 17 miners and left up to 300 workers trapped underground, in Soma, in western Turkey, Tuesday, May 13, 2014, a Turkish official said. Twenty people were rescued from the mine but one later died in the hospital, Soma administrator Mehmet Bahattin Atci told reporters. The town is 250 kilometers (155 miles) south of Istanbul. The death toll was expected to rise.(AP Photo)
MANISA, TURKEY - MAY 14: Relatives of the miners wait as search and rescue operations keep going on following the fire in a coal mine in the Soma district of Manisa, Turkey on May 14, 2014. An explosion and fire in the western Turkish province of Manisa followed an electrical fault on Tuesday afternoon, on May 13, 2014 killed at least 205 miners and injured many others. The deaths of 205 miners in a fire at a coal mine in western Turkey on Tuesday could be the worst mining disaster in the country's history, Turkey's Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said Wednesday. (Photo by Murat Kula/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
An injured miner came out carried by rescuers, on May 13, 2014 after an explosion in a coal mine in Manisa. At least 157 miners were killed in collapsed coal mine in the western Turkish city of Manisa. 'At least 200-300 workers were working in the mine when an electric fault caused an explosion,' the mayor of Soma, a district of Manisa, told private NTV television. AFP PHOTO/BULENT KILIC (Photo credit should read BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images)
An injured miner came out carried by rescuers, on May 13, 2014 after an explosion in a coal mine in Manisa. At least 157 miners were killed in collapsed coal mine in the western Turkish city of Manisa. 'At least 200-300 workers were working in the mine when an electric fault caused an explosion,' the mayor of Soma, a district of Manisa, told private NTV television. AFP PHOTO/BULENT KILIC (Photo credit should read BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images)
MANISA, TURKEY - MAY 13: At least 3 miners died in a mine in the western Turkish province of Manisa where more than 200 miners have been trapped inside following a malfunction at an electrical transformer nearby late on May 13, 2014. Search and rescue operations keep going on in the mine. (Photo by Ahmet Bayram/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
MANISA, TURKEY - MAY 13: At least 3 miners died in a mine in the western Turkish province of Manisa where more than 200 miners have been trapped inside following a malfunction at an electrical transformer nearby late on May 13, 2014. Search and rescue operations keep going on in the mine. (Photo by Ahmet Bayram/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
MANISA, TURKEY - MAY 13: At least 3 miners died in a mine in the western Turkish province of Manisa where more than 200 miners have been trapped inside following a malfunction at an electrical transformer nearby late on May 13, 2014. A relative of a miner prays as search and rescue operations keep going on in the mine. (Photo by Cem Oksuz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
MANISA, TURKEY - MAY 13: At least 3 miners died in a mine in the western Turkish province of Manisa where more than 200 miners have been trapped inside following a malfunction at an electrical transformer nearby late on May 13, 2014. Search and rescue operations keep going on in the mine. (Photo by Cem Oksuz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Medics place an injured miner into an ambulance after an explosion and fire at a coal mine in Soma, in western Turkey, Tuesday, May 13, 2014. An explosion and fire at a coal mine in western Turkey killed at least one miner Tuesday and left up to 300 workers trapped underground, a Turkish official said. Twenty people were rescued from the mine in the town of Soma in Manisa province but one later died in the hospital, Soma administrator Mehmet Bahattin Atci told reporters. The town is 250 kilometers (155 miles) south of Istanbul. (AP Photo/Depo Photos)
MANISA, TURKEY - MAY 13: At least 3 miners died in a mine in the western Turkish province of Manisa where more than 200 miners have been trapped inside following a malfunction at an electrical transformer nearby late on May 13, 2014. Search and rescue operations keep going on in the mine. (Photo by Cem Oksuz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Relatives try to get information outside a local hospital after an explosion and fire at a coal mine in Soma, in western Turkey, Tuesday, May 13, 2014. An explosion and fire at a coal mine in western Turkey killed at least one miner Tuesday and left up to 300 workers trapped underground, a Turkish official said. Twenty people were rescued from the mine in the town of Soma in Manisa province but one later died in the hospital, Soma administrator Mehmet Bahattin Atci told reporters. The town is 250 kilometers (155 miles) south of Istanbul. (AP Photo/Depo Photos)
Medics place an injured miner into an ambulance after an explosion and fire at a coal mine in Soma, in western Turkey, Tuesday, May 13, 2014. An explosion and fire at a coal mine in western Turkey killed at least one miner Tuesday and left up to 300 workers trapped underground, a Turkish official said. Twenty people were rescued from the mine in the town of Soma in Manisa province but one later died in the hospital, Soma administrator Mehmet Bahattin Atci told reporters. The town is 250 kilometers (155 miles) south of Istanbul. (AP Photo/Depo Photos)
MANISA, TURKEY - MAY 13: Miners are being rescued as a miner has died and more than 200 miners have been trapped inside following a malfunction at an electrical transformer nearby late on May 13, 2014. (Photo by Soner Ovumlu - Anadolu Agency)
MANISA, TURKEY - MAY 13: Search and rescue operations keep going on in a mine in the western Turkish province of Manisa where a miner has died and more than 200 miners have been trapped inside following a malfunction at an electrical transformer nearby late on May 13, 2014. (Photo by Cem Oksuz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
MANISA, TURKEY - MAY 13: Search and rescue operations keep going on in a mine in the western Turkish province of Manisa where a miner has died and more than 200 miners have been trapped inside following a malfunction at an electrical transformer nearby late on May 13, 2014. (Photo by Cem Oksuz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
MANISA, TURKEY - MAY 13: Families of the miners wait outside the mine, in tears, as search and rescue operations keep going on in a mine in the western Turkish province of Manisa where a miner has died and more than 200 miners have been trapped inside following a malfunction at an electrical transformer nearby late on May 13, 2014. (Photo by Cem Oksuz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
MANISA, TURKEY - MAY 13: Search and rescue operations keep going on in a mine in the western Turkish province of Manisa where a miner has died and more than 200 miners have been trapped inside following a malfunction at an electrical transformer nearby late on May 13, 2014. (Photo by Cem Oksuz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
MANISA, TURKEY - MAY 13: A miner has died and more than 200 miners have been trapped inside a mine in the western Turkish province of Manisa following a malfunction at an electrical transformer nearby late on May 13, 2014. (Photo by Ahmet Bayram/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
MANISA, TURKEY - MAY 13: A miner has died and more than 200 miners have been trapped inside a mine in the western Turkish province of Manisa following a malfunction at an electrical transformer nearby late on May 13, 2014. (Photo by Ahmet Bayram/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
MANISA, TURKEY - MAY 13: Search and rescue operations keep going on in a mine in the western Turkish province of Manisa where a miner has died and more than 200 miners have been trapped inside following a malfunction at an electrical transformer nearby late on May 13, 2014. (Photo by Cem Oksuz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
MANISA, TURKEY - MAY 13: Search and rescue operations keep going on in a mine in the western Turkish province of Manisa where a miner has died and more than 200 miners have been trapped inside following a malfunction at an electrical transformer nearby late on May 13, 2014. (Photo by Cem Oksuz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
MANISA, TURKEY - MAY 13: Search and rescue operations keep going on in a mine in the western Turkish province of Manisa where a miner has died and more than 200 miners have been trapped inside following a malfunction at an electrical transformer nearby late on May 13, 2014. (Photo by Cem Oksuz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
MANISA, TURKEY - MAY 13: Families of the miners wait outside the mine as search and rescue operations keep going on in a mine in the western Turkish province of Manisa where a miner has died and more than 200 miners have been trapped inside following a malfunction at an electrical transformer nearby late on May 13, 2014. (Photo by Cem Oksuz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
MANISA, TURKEY - MAY 13: Search and rescue operations keep going on in a mine in the western Turkish province of Manisa where a miner has died and more than 200 miners have been trapped inside following a malfunction at an electrical transformer nearby late on May 13, 2014. (Photo by Cem Oksuz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
MANISA, TURKEY - MAY 13: Search and rescue operations keep going on in a mine in the western Turkish province of Manisa where a miner has died and more than 200 miners have been trapped inside following a malfunction at an electrical transformer nearby late on May 13, 2014. (Photo by Cem Oksuz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
MANISA, TURKEY - MAY 13: Search and rescue operations keep going on in a mine in the western Turkish province of Manisa where a miner has died and more than 200 miners have been trapped inside following a malfunction at an electrical transformer nearby late on May 13, 2014. (Photo by Cem Oksuz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
MANISA, TURKEY - MAY 13: Search and rescue operations keep going on in a mine in the western Turkish province of Manisa where a miner has died and more than 200 miners have been trapped inside following a malfunction at an electrical transformer nearby late on May 13, 2014. (Photo by Cem Oksuz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
MANISA, TURKEY - MAY 13: Search and rescue operations keep going on in a mine in the western Turkish province of Manisa where a miner has died and more than 200 miners have been trapped inside following a malfunction at an electrical transformer nearby late on May 13, 2014. (Photo by Cem Oksuz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
MANISA, TURKEY - MAY 13: Search and rescue operations keep going on in a mine in the western Turkish province of Manisa where a miner has died and more than 200 miners have been trapped inside following a malfunction at an electrical transformer nearby late on May 13, 2014. (Photo by Cem Oksuz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
MANISA, TURKEY - MAY 13: A miner has died and more than 200 miners have been trapped inside a mine in the western Turkish province of Manisa following a malfunction at an electrical transformer nearby late on May 13, 2014. (Photo by Soner Ovumlu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
ANKARA, TURKEY - MAY 13: Turkish Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Taner Yildiz makes a press statement on the mine fire in Soma, Manisa where a miner has died and more than 200 miners have been trapped inside following a malfunction at an electrical transformer nearby. (Photo by Murat Kula/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
MANISA, TURKEY - MAY 13: Search and rescue operations keep going on in a mine in the western Turkish province of Manisa where a miner has died and more than 200 miners have been trapped inside following a malfunction at an electrical transformer nearby late on May 13, 2014. (Photo by Cem Oksuz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
MANISA, TURKEY - MAY 14: Relatives of the miners killed in the coal mine fire in Soma, wait outside a cold storage house where dead bodies of victims were borught for identification in Kiragac district of Manisa, Turkey on May 14, 2014. An explosion and fire in the western Turkish province of Manisa followed an electrical fault on Tuesday afternoon, on May 13, 2014 killed at least 205 miners and injured many others. The deaths of 205 miners in a fire at a coal mine in western Turkey on Tuesday could be the worst mining disaster in the country's history, Turkey's Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said Wednesday. (Photo by Soner Kilinc/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
MANISA, TURKEY - MAY 14: Search and rescue operations keep going on following the fire in a coal mine in the Soma district of Manisa, Turkey on May 14, 2014. An explosion and fire in the western Turkish province of Manisa followed an electrical fault on Tuesday afternoon, on May 13, 2014 killed at least 205 miners and injured many others. The deaths of 205 miners in a fire at a coal mine in western Turkey on Tuesday could be the worst mining disaster in the country's history, Turkey's Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said Wednesday. (Photo by Murat Kula/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
MANISA, TURKEY - MAY 14: A miner is helped by rescue workers and friends from the coal mine on May 14, 2014 in Soma, Manisa, Turkey. An explosion and fire in the coal mine killed at least 205 miners and trapped hundreds more. Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said 787 workers had been in the mine when the blast occurred. Turkey has declared three days of mourning over the catastrophe. (Photo by Ozgu Ozdemir/Getty Images)
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By DESMOND BUTLER and SUZAN FRASER

SOMA, Turkey (AP) - Rescuers struggled to reach more than 200 miners trapped underground early Wednesday after an explosion and fire at a coal mine in western Turkey killed at least 201 workers, authorities said, in one of the worst mining disasters in Turkish history.

Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said 787 people were inside the coal mine in Soma, some 250 kilometers (155 miles) south of Istanbul, at the time of the accident and 363 of them had been rescued so far.

At least 80 miners were injured, including four who were in serious condition, Yildiz told reporters in Soma, as he oversaw the rescue operation involving more than 400 rescuers.

The accident occurred when the workers were preparing for a shift change, officials said, which likely raised the casualty toll because there were more miners inside the mine than usual.

Yildiz said the deaths were caused by carbon monoxide poisoning and feared the death toll could end up much higher than the latest count of 201 workers.

The rescue effort is "reaching a critical stage," Yildiz said, with more deaths likely as time passes.

Earlier, the minister said the rescue operations were hindered because the mine had not completely been cleared of gas.

Authorities say the disaster followed an explosion and fire caused by a power distribution unit.

Nurettin Akcul, a mining trade union leader, told HaberTurk television that Turkey was likely facing its worst mining accident ever.

"Time is working against us. We fear that the numbers could rise further," Yildiz said. "We have to finish this (rescue operation) by dawn. I have to say that our pain, our trouble could increase."

Earlier Yildiz said some of the workers were 420 meters (460 yards) deep inside the mine. News reports said the workers could not use lifts to get out of the mine because the explosion had caused a power cut.

Television footage showed people cheering and applauding as some trapped workers emerged out of the mine, helped by rescuers, their faces and hard-hats covered in soot. One wiped away tears on his jacket, another smiled, waved and flashed a "thumbs up" sign at onlookers.

Dozens of ambulances ferried back and forth bodies and the injured extracted from the mine and rescue workers were massed at the entrance of the mine on a hill side. Family members at the scene pleaded for news of their loved ones.

One woman threw herself on the ground, crying after hearing about the death of a loved one, HaberTurk television showed. There were tears of joy for another who told the station she had just spoken by telephone to a missing relative.

Police set up fences and stood guard around Soma state hospital to keep the crowds away.

Authorities had earlier said that the blast left between 200 to 300 miners underground and made arrangements to set up a cold storage facility to hold the corpses of miners recovered from the site.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan postponed a one-day visit to Albania scheduled for Wednesday and planned to visit Soma instead.

SOMA Komur Isletmeleri A.S., which owns the mine, said the accident occurred despite the "highest safety measures and constant controls" and added that an investigation was being launched.

"Our main priority is to get our workers out so that they may be reunited with their loved ones," the company said in a statement.

Mining accidents are common in Turkey, which is plagued by poor safety conditions.

Turkey's worst mining disaster was a 1992 gas explosion that killed 263 workers near the Black Sea port of Zonguldak.

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Fraser reported from Ankara, Turkey. Berza Simsek in Soma contributed.

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