Rescue workers are expected to take four days to reach 30 miners trapped in a coal mine in northern Turkey, a Turkish mining official said on Wednesday, dimming hopes of finding the workers alive.
Teams working to rescue the miners since Monday afternoon were being obstructed by coal subsidence at the mine, located in the northern Black Sea province of Zonguldak.
Turkish Coal Board General Manager Burhan Inan said rescue teams had cleared one obstacle and envisaged it would take four days to break through a further 20 metre-long subsidence.
"We are working to shorten that time," Inan was quoted as telling reporters by state-run Anatolian news agency.
Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan arrived in Zonguldak on Wednesday afternoon to inspect the rescue efforts, amid growing concerns about the workers' survival chances.
"Naturally as the time period extends it increases further our concerns about our worker brothers down there," said Energy Minister Taner Yildiz.
President Abdullah Gul has given the order for the State Audit Board to conduct a comprehensive investigation on the recent accidents that have occurred in the mining sector, a statement on his Web site said.
Some 40 miners were reported to have been working in two separate areas at a depth of about 540 metres when the explosion occurred on Monday. No-one has communicated with them since.
Eight workers were initially reportedly injured.
The Black Sea region is Turkey's largest coal producer, with output primarily focused on coal for domestic heating needs.
Mining disasters are common in Turkey. The worst disaster, which occurred at Zonguldak in 1992, killed 263 workers.
In February a gas blast at a mine in Balikesir, northwest Turkey, killed 17 workers. Two months earlier 19 workers died in a mine collapse near the city of Bursa after an explosion.
ReutersLast Mod: 20 Mayıs 2010, 08:56