An injured miner is carried to an ambulance in Soma, a district in Turkey's western province of Manisa May 13, 2014..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
SOMA, Turkey - The death toll from an explosion and fire in a Turkish coal mine rose above 200 on Wednesday as rescue workers continued retrieving the dead and injured more than 12 hours after the blast, the country's energy minister said.
Hundreds more were still believed to be trapped in the mine in Soma, around 120 km (75 miles) northeast of the Aegean coastal city of Izmir, and the death toll could rise further, Taner Yildiz told reporters at the scene.
Fellow miners said the fire was still burning underground, hampering rescue efforts in the country's worst mining disaster for more than two decades. A pall of smoke hung above the area.
Rescue workers pumped oxygen into the mine to try to keep those trapped by the blaze alive, as thousands of family members and fellow workers gathered outside the town's hospital.
"The death toll is rising towards a point that we had feared," Yildiz said. He 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.
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 clamoring for information.