ANKARA, Turkey – A coal mine in southern Turkey collapsed Tuesday, trapping 18 workers underground as water surged near them, officials said -- an event likely to raise even more concerns about the nation's poor workplace safety standards.
Gov. Murat Koca said the tragedy occurred at the Has Sekerler mine near the town of Ermenek in Karaman province, 300 miles south of Ankara, close to Turkey's Mediterranean coast.
He said about 20 other workers had managed to escape or were rescued from the mine.
The miners were trapped after water that had accumulated inside the mine flooded a gallery where they were working, Koca said. Sahin Uyar, an official at the privately-owned coal mine, told private NTV television that the miners were stuck about 330 yards underground.
"At the moment, 18 of our colleagues are trapped. We are working to pump water out from three sections of the mine," he told NTV, adding that so far rescue crews have had no contact with the trapped miners.
Turkey's ministers for energy and transportation immediately left Ankara, the capital, to oversee the rescue operation
In May, a fire inside a coal mine in the western town of Soma killed 301 miners in Turkey's worst mining disaster. The fire exposed poor safety standards and superficial government inspections in many of the country's mines.