ISTANBUL (AP) — Rescue workers desperately pumped water out of a coal mine in southern Turkey and anxious relatives huddled nearby Wednesday after surging waters trapped 18 Turkish miners deep underground.
After canceling some festivities for a national holiday, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu both visited the town of Ermenek in Karaman province, where the Has Sekerler mine is located close to Turkey’s Mediterranean coast.
Both men pledged a vigorous investigation into the disaster, Turkish news agencies reported.
Turkish officials say the workers’ chances of survival are slim unless they managed to reach a safety gallery at the coal mine. The regional governor said about 20 other workers either escaped or were rescued Tuesday as the disaster unfolded.
Divers attempted rescue operations at the flooded mine Wednesday but visibility was too poor to continue, Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said, according to the state-run Anadolu news agency.
Emergency workers worked through the night and into the day using huge pipes to pump water from 350 meters (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 neighboring regions 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.