Ankara, May 17 IANS | 7 months ago

The toll in Turkey's coal mine disaster rose to 299 after 15 more bodies were recovered from the mine in the western town of Soma, Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said Saturday.

Rescue teams entered parts of the mine that were previously inaccessible due to a fire after the blaze was largely put out, Xinhua reported.

A total of 787 people were inside the mine in Soma, 250 km south of Istanbul, when the disaster occurred Tuesday. Most of the victims died of carbon monoxide poisoning.

The accident occurred as the workers were preparing for a shift change, officials said. This might have raised the toll because there were more miners inside than usual.

The explosion occurred at a power distribution unit two km below the surface, which caused the mine's elevator to stop working. A fire broke out after the explosion.

Yildiz said the cause of the disaster is yet to be determined, but an electrical fault causing an explosion and fire might be responsible.

Any negligence on the part of officials or the company that manage the mine will be dealt with punishment, Yildiz added.

However, the mine's operator Soma Komur denied any allegations of negligence, saying that they had all worked very hard.

Turkish police Friday dispersed protesters who were demanding compensation for the killed miners.

Clashes broke out as police used tear gas, water cannon and plastic bullets to disperse demonstrators who chanted anti-government slogans in Soma.

Angry young protesters first marched to a hospital in the town and then responded with stones when intervened by riot police.

The disaster has triggered nationwide protests against the government in the past three days.

Turkey currently has some 740 coal mines and more than 48,000 miners. Mine accidents in the country have killed over 3,000 people and injured more than 100,000 since 1941. Nearly one in every 10 accidents at work occurs in those mines.

(Posted on 17-05-2014)

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