The death toll in a coal mine explosion in northern Turkey rose to at least 41 people on Saturday, officials said.
Desperate relatives had waited all night in the cold outside the state-owned TTK Amasra Muessese Mudurlugu mine in the town of Amasra, in the coastal province of Bartin, hoping for news. There were 110 miners working in the pit when the explosion happened on Friday evening.
Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said on Saturday that 40 miners had been confirmed dead. Eleven were injured and hospitalized, while 58 others managed to get out of the mine on their own or were rescued unharmed. The status of a remaining minor was unclear.
Energy Minister Fatih Donmez said rescue efforts were nearly complete. Earlier, he said a fire was still burning in the mine gallery where more than a dozen miners had been trapped. Work to isolate and cool the fire continued, he said.
Preliminary assessments indicated the explosion was likely caused by firedamp, which refers to flammable gases found in coal mines, Donmez said overnight. Three prosecutors were investigating the explosion.
A day laborer said he saw the news and rushed to the site to help with the rescue. "We saw a terrible scene, it cannot be described, it is very sad," said Celal Kara, 40. "They're all my friends...they've all had dreams," the 14-year-old miner said after leaving the mine, his face covered in soot.
Ambulances were on standby at the site. Rescue teams have been dispatched to the area, including from neighboring provinces, Turkey's disaster management agency AFAD said.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was due to visit Amasra on Saturday. He tweeted that any negligence would be punished.
Separately, Turkey's police headquarters said in a statement that legal action would be taken against 12 online users who allegedly shared provocative content about the mine explosion to incite hatred on social media.
Turkey's worst mining disaster took place in 2014, when 301 miners died after a fire broke out at a coal mine in the western town of Soma.