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New fire at Turkish mine hampers search efforts for trapped workers

Turkey Mining Acciden_Leff.jpg

May 16, 2014 - Turkish miners listen to the mining company's owner, Alp Gurkan, during a news conference in Soma, Turkey. The Turkish mining company defended its safety record, 4 days after more than 284 people died in an underground blaze at its coal mine in western Turkey. (AP)

Turkey's energy minister says a new fire and increased gas levels inside a coal mine in western Turkey are hampering search efforts for an estimated two or three miners still believed trapped underground.

Minister Taner Yildiz said Saturday that emergency crews retrieved the body of one more miner overnight before the new fire broke out, increasing the death toll in Turkey's worst mining disaster to 299.

Government and company officials have denied that negligence caused the disaster in the mine in Soma but opposition lawmakers have raised questions about possible lax oversight. One miner who survived said safety inspectors never visited the lower reaches of the mine in Soma.

Police used tear gas and water cannon to disperse rock-throwing protesters Friday in Soma who were demanding that government resign.