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Hopes Dimming for Trapped Turkish Miners

09-08-2014
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Rescuers are in a race against time Wednesday to reach more than 200 miners trapped in a coal mine in western Turkey.

An explosion from a power distribution unit tore through the mine as workers were preparing for a shift change, which meant there were even more workers inside the mine than usual.

The explosion and fire killed more than 200 of the nearly 800 people inside the mine.

During the night, people cheered and applauded as some trapped workers emerged, their faces and hard-hats covered in soot. But officials admitted there is little hope for those still trapped.

One woman who said her husband was still inside said she doesn't know what's going on.

"I don't know what's happening -- Wounded? Missing? -- I haven't heard anything," she said.

Officials say the fire is still burning inside the mine, releasing deadly carbon monoxide. They expect the death toll to go much higher because rescue operations have been hindered by dangerous gas that has not been cleared out yet.

"Reverse air pumping operations continue," Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yiildiz told reporters. "And, as of now, we have lost 201 of our miners. We fear that this number will rise. I also said there were 80 wounded [in total]. Sixty of those injured were miners."

Some of the workers were more than a quarter mile below the surface (420 meters/460 yards). News reports said the workers could not use elevators to escape because the explosion cut off power.

Some of the injured who emerged alive were whisked away on a stretcher to the cheers of onlookers. But for the families of hundreds more, hope that they'll see their loved ones again is fading with each passing hour.

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