Zee Media Bureau
Istanbul: The death toll in Turkey`s coal mine tragedy rose to 301 as the bodies of two more miners were found on Saturday, as per Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said.
However, Yildiz has also announced that the rescue operation was carried out to completion and there are no more miners left underground.
Earlier in the day, a fresh fire broke out inside the coal mine in the western town of Soma, hampering efforts to find out if any miners were trapped underground, the minister said.
A total of 485 miners have been rescued since the explosion in the coal mine May 13, Xinhua cited Anatolia news agency as quoting the minister.
As to the cause of the accident, Yildiz said it would be revealed after the autopsies, adding that DNA tests would also be run to identify the miners before delivering them to their families.
A total of 787 people were inside the mine in Soma, 250 km south of Istanbul, when the disaster occurred Tuesday. Most of the victims died of carbon monoxide poisoning.
The accident occurred as the workers were preparing for a shift change, officials said. This might have raised the toll because there were more miners inside than usual.
The explosion occurred at a power distribution unit two km below the surface, which caused the mine`s elevator to stop working. A fire broke out after the explosion.
Yildiz said the cause of the disaster is yet to be determined, but an electrical fault causing an explosion and fire might be responsible.
However, the mine`s operator Soma Komur denied any allegations of negligence, saying that they had all worked very hard.
Turkish police Friday dispersed protesters who were demanding compensation for the killed miners.
Clashes broke out as police used tear gas, water cannon and plastic bullets to disperse demonstrators who chanted anti-government slogans in Soma.
Angry young protesters first marched to a hospital in the town and then responded with stones when intervened by riot police.
The disaster has triggered nationwide protests against the government in the past three days.
Turkey currently has some 740 coal mines and more than 48,000 miners. Mine accidents in the country have killed over 3,000 people and injured more than 100,000 since 1941. Nearly one in every 10 accidents at work occurs in those mines.
(With IANS inputs)