Death toll in Turkey mine disaster rises to 232

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Death toll in Turkey mine disaster rises to 232
Foto: Soma'da yakınlarını kaybeden vatandaş Başbakan'ın korumaları tarafından dövüldü #BuAyıpSizeYeter http://t.co/THq5FtNtnk
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)
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)
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)
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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SOMA, Turkey (AP) - Turkey's prime minister says the death toll in the coal mine explosion and fire has increased to 232.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan made the announcement Wednesday during a visit to the coal mine in Soma, about 250 kilometers (155 miles) south of Istanbul.

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 explosion and 363 of them had been rescued so far.

"Regarding the rescue operation, I can say that our hopes are diminishing," Yildiz said.

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

As bodies were brought out on stretchers, rescue workers pulled blankets back from the faces of the dead to give jostling crowds of anxious family members a chance to identify victims. One elderly man wearing a prayer cap wailed after he recognized one of the dead, and police restrained him from climbing into an ambulance with the body.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared three days of national mourning, ordering flags to be lowered to half-staff. Erdogan postponed a one-day visit to Albania and planned to visit Soma instead.

Fifty-seven people were confirmed as injured, Yildiz told reporters in Soma, where he was overseeing operations by more than 400 rescuers. Earlier he had put the injured total at 80, including four in serious condition.

The explosion tore through the mine as 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.

The minister said the fire was still blazing inside the mine, 18 hours after the blast. The air around the mine swirled with smoke and soot.The deaths were caused by carbon monoxide poisoning, Yildiz said.

An injured rescue worker who emerged alive was whisked away on a stretcher to the cheers of onlookers.

Yildiz said 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.

Yildiz said earlier that some of the workers were 420 meters (460 yards) deep inside the mine. News reports said the workers could not use lifts to escape because the explosion had cut off power.

Workers from nearby mines were brought in to join the rescue operation. One 30-year-old man, who declined to give his name, said he rushed to the scene to try to help find his brother who was still missing early Wednesday. He said he was able to make it about 150 meters (500 feet) inside before gasses forced him to retreat.

"There is no hope," he said with tears in his eyes.

During the night, people cheered and applauded as some trapped workers emerged, their faces and hard-hats covered in soot. Dozens of ambulances drove back and forth to carry the rising number of bodies as well as injured workers.

Emine Gulsen, part of a group of women who sat wailing near the entrance to the mine. chanted in song, "My son is gone, my Mehmet." Her son, Mehmet Gulsen, 31, has been working in the mine for five years.

Mehmet Gulsen's aunt, Makbule Dag, held out hope. "Inshallah" (God willing), she said.

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

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.

Turkey's Labor and Social Security Ministry said the mine had been inspected five times since 2012, including in March of 2014, and that no issues violating work safety and security were detected.

The country's main opposition party said that Erdogan's ruling party had recently voted down a proposal for the establishment of a parliamentary inquiry into a series of small scale accidents at mines around Soma.

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

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