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Turkish coal mine deaths rise to 282

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Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, center right, is surrounded by security members as he visits the coal mine in Soma, Turkey, Wednesday, May 14, 2014. An explosion and fire at the coal mine killed at least 232 workers, authorities said, in one of the worst mining disasters in Turkish history. Turkey’s Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said 787 people were inside the coal mine at the time of the accident.(AP Photo/Emre Tazegul)

Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, center right, is surrounded by security members as he visits the coal mine in Soma, Turkey, Wednesday, May 14, 2014. An explosion and fire at the coal mine killed at least 232 workers, authorities said, in one of the worst mining disasters in Turkish history. Turkey’s Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said 787 people were inside the coal mine at the time of the accident.(AP Photo/Emre Tazegul)

Riot police try to stop protesters who were attacking the offices of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party, in Soma, Turkey, during his visit to the coal mine in Soma Wednesday, May 14, 2014. A violent protest erupted Wednesday in the Turkish city of Soma, where at least 238 coal miners have died after a mine explosion as many in the crowd expressed anger at Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government, rocks were thrown and some people were shouting that Erdogan was a “Murderer!” and a “Thief!”(AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)

In this photo released by the Turkish Prime Minister’s Press Office, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is surrounded by security members as he visits the coal mine in Soma, Turkey, Wednesday, May 14, 2014. Nearly 450 miners were rescued, the mining company said, but the fate of an unknown number of others remained unclear as bodies are still being brought to the surface and burials are underway after one of the world’s deadliest mining disasters. (AP Photo/Kayhan Ozer, Turkish Prime Minister’s Press Office, HO)

A woman at the grave of a mine accident victim in Soma, Turkey, Wednesday, May 14, 2014. Rescuers desperately raced against time to reach more than 200 miners trapped underground Wednesday after an explosion and fire at a coal mine killed at least 245 workers, Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said Wednesday.(AP Photo/Emre Tazegul)

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SOMA, Turkey (AP) — Rescue teams have recovered eight more victims from a coal mine in western Turkey, raising the death toll in Turkey’s worst mining disaster to 282, a government minister said Thursday.

Even as hopes for some 150 other miners trapped underground faded, Energy Minister Taner Yildiz told reporters that rescue efforts were focusing on two areas inside the mine.

Yildiz said the operation was hampered by a fire still blazing inside the mine.

The government has said 787 people were inside the coal mine at the time of Tuesday’s explosion and 363 were rescued, including scores who were injured.

The death toll topped a 1992 gas explosion that killed 263 workers near Turkey’s Black Sea port of Zonguldak.

Anti-government protests broke out Wednesday in the mining town of Soma, as well as Istanbul and the capital, Ankara, with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan heckled as he tried to show concern. Protesters shouted “Murderer!” and “Thief!” and Erdogan was forced to seek refuge in a supermarket, surrounded by police.

The display of anger could have significant repercussions for the Turkish leader, who is widely expected to run for president in the August election, although he has yet to announce his candidacy.

Authorities said the disaster followed an explosion and fire at a power distribution unit and most deaths were caused by carbon monoxide poisoning. Erdogan promised the tragedy would be investigated to its “smallest detail” and that “no negligence will be ignored.”

Mining accidents are common in Turkey, which is plagued by poor safety conditions. Tuesday’s explosion tore through the mine as workers were preparing for a shift change, which likely raised the casualty toll.

Turkey’s Labor and Social Security Ministry said the mine had been inspected five times since 2012, most recently in March, and that no safety violations were detected. But the country’s main opposition party said Erdogan’s ruling party had recently voted down a proposal to hold a parliamentary inquiry into a series of small-scale accidents at the mines around Soma.

Associated Press

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