Methane Explosion in Turkish Coal Mine Kills 17

At least 17 miners have been killed after a methane gas explosion in Turkish coal mine on Tuesday, according to northwestern Balikesir province said.

Rescuers brought out 12 bodies from the Odakoy mine near the town of Dursunbey while five other miners succumbed to their injuries, Yilmaz Arslan told the NTV network.

"There are no other miners inside and searches have been halted," he said.

Forty-six people were working in the mine when a pocket of methane caught fire at 1530 GMT at a depth of 250 metres (820 feet), a company official told Anatolia news agency.

"Our comrades who were near the exit... could come out safe and sound," said Erhan Ortakoylu. Ten were brought to safety by rescuers.

Anatolia said 17 people were killed in the same mine in a 2006 accident, AFP reports.

Balikesir Governor Yilmaz Arslan said that the Tuesday evening blast caused a shaft to collapse at the mine, the CNN-Turk television network reported.

Arslan added that 12 miners lost their lives as a result of the explosion, while the other five succumbed to severe burns they had sustained in the incident.

There are no other miners inside and searches have been brought to a standstill, he added.

Rescuers could not enter the mine for several hours due to a high concentration of gas. Air was pumped into the mine to try to dissipate the gas as rescuers waited for experienced miners to arrive.

Turkish Labor Minister Omer Dincer has ordered a thorough investigation of the incident, Press TV reports.

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