AT least 25 people have been killed and dozens remain trapped after a massive blast tore through a coal mine in Turkey.
Around 110 workers were in the mine at the time of the explosion – almost half of them at over 300 metres deep.
Rescuers were still desperately searching for signs of life on Saturday morning after pulling out at least 25 bodies from under hundreds of metres of rock.
Turkey’s health minister said eight people have been rushed to hospital in a critical condition after being pulled out alive.
Footage showed miners emerging blackened and bleary-eyed at the pit in the small coal mining town of Amasra on Turkey’s Black Sea coast.
“We are facing a truly regretful situation,” Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu told reporters after flying out to the scene.
“In all, 110 of our brothers were working (underground).
“Some of them came out on their own, and some of them were rescued.”
Soyli confirmed nearly 50 miners remained trapped in two separate areas between 300 and 350 metres below ground.
Energy Minister Fatih Donmez said initial indications suggest the blast was caused by firedamp – a term referring to methane in coal mines.
Images showed anxious crowds – some with tears in their eyes – gathering around a damaged white building near the entrance to the pit in search of news of their friends and loved ones.
Paramedics were seen giving oxygen to the miners who climbed out before rushing them to the nearest hospitals.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he has cancelled his arrangements and will fly to the scene of the accident on Saturday.
“Our hope is that the loss of life will not increase further, that our miners will be found alive,” Erdogan said.
“All of our efforts are aimed in this direction.”
Amasra mayor Recai Cakir said many of those who survived suffered “serious injuries”.
The blast occurred moments before sunset and the rescue effort was being hampered by the darkness.
Turkey’s Maden Is mining workers’ union also blamed the blast on a build-up of methane gas.
The local governor in the area said a team of more than 70 rescuers had managed to reach a point in the pit some 250 metres below on Friday night.
It was not immediately clear if the rescuers would be able to get any closer to the trapped workers.
The local public prosecutor’s office said it was treating the incident as an accident and launching a formal investigation.
Turkey suffered its deadliest coal mining disaster in 2014 when 301 workers died in a blast in the western town of Soma.