Israel's Magen David Adom offers Turkey assistance as death toll in mine blast tops 200

Hundreds still trapped after coal mine explosion and fire in Turkish town of Soma; Israeli embassy in Ankara calls off Independence Day event.

May 14, 2014 11:35
2 minute read.

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)


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Magen David Adom on Wednesday offered the Turkish Red Crescent assistance after an explosion and subsequent fire in a coal mine in the town of Soma killed more than 200 people.

Turkish rescue workers continued retrieving the dead and injured on Wednesday, more than 12 hours after the blast occurred.

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, Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz told reporters at the scene.

Turkey has not formally requested Israel's assistance with rescue and medical efforts, and has as yet accepted MDA's offer to help.

An MDA spokesman said that Israel rescue and response personnel could provide valuable manpower and medical equipment.

The Israeli embassy in Ankara also called off a planned Independence Day reception scheduled for Wednesday night in solidarity with Turkish people mourning the Soma coal mine disaster.

"Due to the grave accident in the coal mine in Soma, Manisa, the reception on the occasion of the 66th Independence Day of the State of Israel planned to be held tonight (14 May 2014) has been cancelled," the embassy said in a statement.

"The State and people of Israel share the grief of the Turkish people, pay condolences to the families of the deceased, wish speedy recovery for the wounded and hope for positive news from the ones still in the mine," it added.

Miners rescued from the mine said Wednesday that  the fire was still burning underground, hampering rescue efforts in the country's worst mining disaster in 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 wounded people were pulled out 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.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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