A methane gas explosion ripped through a coal mine in western Turkey, killing at least six miners and trapping 13 others.
Abdullah Ozer, a politician, said the remaining 13 miners were also feared dead.
The rescue work has been complicated by high concentration of gas inside the mine and fog that prevented transportation of rescuers by air to the area in western Turkey.
But labour minister Omer Dincer expressed some hope for survivors. Six bodies were recovered early today, he said.
“We’re very sorry. We did not lose our hope. We’re trying to reach them,” he said outside the mine in the village of Devecikonagi near the town of Mustafakemalpasa in western Bursa province.
The miners were trapped nearly 700 feet below the surface yesterday when the blast caused a shaft to collapse in the mine.
Rescuers could not enter the mine for several hours due to high concentration of gas but pumped air into the mine to try to dissolve the gas as they waited for the arrival of experienced miners with adequate equipment from other cities by road.
Heavy fog prevented transportation by helicopter.
Last night six rescuers were taken to hospital after suffering from the gas, NTV television said.
Medics at the site provided first aid under floodlights before rushing them to nearby hospitals.
Paramilitary troops cordoned off the area and were trying to calm down relatives of the miners. But Mr Ozer’s statement diminished hopes for their survival.
“We have been told that there is no hope for those trapped inside because of high concentration of gas inside,” he said at the site.
Accidents are not uncommon in Turkish mines due to safety breaches, outdated equipment and high concentrations of methane gas.
Seventeen miners were killed in a methane gas explosion at a coal mine in western Balikesir province three years ago.
In Turkey’s worst mining disaster, a gas explosion killed 270 workers near the Black Sea port of Zonguldak in 1992.