Transformer explodes in Turkish coal mine, killing 17

COAL

(CNN) — A fire caused by a transformer explosion in a coal mine in western Turkey has left 17 people dead, a disaster and emergency agency said Tuesday.

More than 200 workers were still stranded late Tuesday, according to preliminary findings by Turkey’s Manisa Natural Disaster and Emergency Coordination Directorate.

Speaking to CNN Turk, Manisa Mayor Cengiz Ergun said 30 workers were rescued, but he earlier said as many as 400 workers might still be underground.

The Turkish national disaster and emergency agency, however, said 21 workers have been rescued, and 11 of them are being treated for injuries.

The mine shaft is about two-thirds of a mile — or 1 kilometer — underground, the disaster agency said.

Earlier, a member of Parliament from Manisa said 16 people were being treated for injuries. The dead and injured seemed to be suffering from burns and suffocation, said Muzaffer Yurttas.

The incident involved an explosion in a transformer, said Energy Minister Taner Yildiz.

About 100 rescuers, dozens of ambulances and a helicopters were dispatched to the scene, the agency said.

“The rescue teams are very experienced,” he said. “They know what they need to do.”

In the initial moments after the blast, “it was important for there to be clean air going underground,” Yildiz said. Officials turned an exit pipe “into a clean air pipe,” so “there is fresh air being given in places where there is no fire,” he said.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, speaking in Ankara, said the country is working “to rescue our stranded brothers.”

By Talia Kayali and Gul Tuysuz

CNN’s Michael Martinez contributed to this report.