Rescue workers have been pumping water out of a coal mine in southern Turkey all night, but hopes of finding alive all or some of the 18 miners trapped deep underground since Tuesday are quickly fading.
Turkish news outlets are reporting that only a fifth of the water that flooded the mine has been extracted. Instead, levels keep rising one meter every two hours.
“Time is working against us," Energy Minister Taner Yildiz told local TV station NTV (in Turkish).
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan cancelled a national holiday reception and was to visit the town of Ermenek in Karaman province where the mine is locatedlater Wednesday,Hurriyet Daily News reports .
The country's emergency agency says a broken pipe in the mine caused the flooding, which began at around 3 p.m. local time (9:00 am ET) Tuesday, when workers were in their lunch break, and the trapped crew was about 350 meters below ground.
Warning saves 20
About 20 other people either escaped or were rescued yesterday as the disaster unfolded.
"We smelled gas and heard our friends below shout, 'There's gas, don't come!' We escaped by seconds," Kerim Pinarli, one of the miners who escaped, told NTV.
The incident has renewed questions about Turkey's poor workplace safety.
In May, a fire inside a coal mine in Soma, western Turkey, killed 301 people, becoming the country’s worst mining disaster.
The Soma catastrophe also became the worst in a series of incidents in the coal sector, which has seen 30,000 die since 1970 as a consequence of inadequate safety conditions.