A methane gas explosion at a coal mine in western Turkey killed 19 miners, federal officials said Friday.
Three survivors were pulled from the mine after the explosion Thursday in the town of Mustafakemalpasa, in the western province of Bursa.
Rescuers tried to reach the others, but they were forced to remove debris by hand because the area was too soft to withstand heavy machinery, said Labor and Social Security Minister Omer Dincer, CNN reports.
"I have to give you the bad news. Rescue teams have reached the accident area. Unfortunately, all the workers are dead," Labour Minister Omer Dincer said in televised remarks.
The workers were trapped at a depth of 220 to 250 metres (726 to 825 feet) late Thursday in the mine near the town of Mustafakemalpasa in the province of Bursa when the explosion caused a gallery to collapse.
Bursa governor Sahabetting Harput said the cave-in came after the workers set off some dynamite, but Dincer said the cause of the explosion was not yet clear and experts would be called in to investigate.
"It was not a very powerful explosion, but the entire gallery, the fortifications totally collapsed," he said, AFP informs.
According to Journal of Turkish Weekly, Dinçer said the mine was last inspected in May and had operated without such an accident since 1983.
Past mine accidents in Turkey have been caused by safety violations and outdated equipment. The worst mining accident in Turkey’s history occurred in 1992, near the Black Sea port of Zonguldak, when a gas explosion killed 270 workers.