Turkish rescue workers pump out water, trying to save 18 miners trapped in flooded coal mine

ISTANBUL – Rescue workers desperately pumped water out of a coal mine in southern Turkey on Wednesday as anxious relatives huddled nearby after surging waters trapped 18 Turkish miners deep underground.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan cancelled a national holiday reception and was to visit the town of Ermenek in Karaman province where the mine is located close to Turkey’s Mediterranean coast, Turkish news agencies reported.

Turkish officials say the workers’ chances of survival are slim unless they managed to reach a safety gallery at the Has Sekerler mine. The regional governor said about 20 other workers either escaped or were rescued Tuesday as the disaster unfolded.

Emergency workers worked all through the night using huge pipes to pump water from 350 metres (380 yards) underground. Turkey’s emergency agency, AFAD, said a broken pipe in the mine caused the flooding but did not elaborate. It sent 225 emergency workers from neighbouring regions and mines to help the rescue effort.

The flooding has renewed questions about Turkey’s poor workplace safety record.

In May, a fire inside a coal mine in the western town of Soma killed 301 miners in Turkey’s worst mining disaster. The fire exposed poor safety standards and superficial government inspections in many of the country’s mines.