Search and rescue operations after an explosion at a coal mine in northern Bartin province's Amasra town have ended, with a death toll of at least 41.

Eleven people were injured and hospitalised, with five in serious condition
Eleven people were injured and hospitalised, with five in serious condition (Reuters)

Funerals for miners killed in a coal mine explosion in northern Türkiye continue as officials raised the death toll to at least 41 people.

Eleven people were injured and hospitalised, with five in serious condition, while 58 others managed to get out of the mine on their own or were rescued unharmed.

Energy Minister Fatih Donmez said on Saturday that rescue operations were completed. 

"We stand by our families, our Bartin with all of our institutions," he tweeted. 

"May God prevent such painful experiences," he added.

Desperate relatives had waited all night in the cold outside the state-owned Turkish Hard Coal Enterprise's (TTK) mine in the town of Amasra, in the Black Sea coastal province of Bartin, hoping for news. 

There were 110 miners working several hundred metres below ground at the time of the explosion on Friday evening.

Relatives of one of the miners killed in a coal mine explosion mourn during his funeral outside a mosque.
Relatives of one of the miners killed in a coal mine explosion mourn during his funeral outside a mosque. (Khalil Hamra / AP)

Their wait turned to devastation by Saturday noon. 

Women cried at the funeral of miner Selcuk Ayvaz, whose coffin was wrapped in the red and white Turkish flag.

Another miner, 28-year-old Aziz Kose, held his newborn baby just days ago. 

They mostly came from working-class families and went underground to the coal mines to make a living.

“We don’t want to see deficiencies or unnecessary risks,” President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said, and added that an investigation would reveal if anyone is responsible for the blast.

He then joined funeral prayers for Rahman Ozcelik, 22, at a village where Turkish media said three other miners were also being mourned.

Erdogan canceled a planned visit to the southeastern city of Diyarbakir and travelled to Amasra instead to coordinate the rescue operation.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (3rd R) attends the funeral of Ramazan Ozcelik, who lost his life during an explosion in a coal mine in Bartin.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (3rd R) attends the funeral of Ramazan Ozcelik, who lost his life during an explosion in a coal mine in Bartin. (Press Office of the Presidency of Türkiye / Handout via AFP)

Cause of the blast 

Ilyas Borekci, deputy head of the neighboring Hattat energy and mining company, a few metres (yards) from the blast scene, sent three special rescue teams to pull survivors out.

"Our friends went down the mine and stayed there four, five hours and they had to have a break after that because the methane level increased," he said.

"The methane level was constantly monitored.

The friends who went down the mine to rescue the miners had mobile devices in their hands, special breathing devices.

"Otherwise it's not possible to go down there," he added.

Then the rescue teams tried to contain the fire and stop it spreading.

The only way to survive such a huge explosion is to get out immediately, Borekci explained.

Respirators and ventilators are only enough for about 45 minutes. Inhale too much carbon monoxide and it kills you.

"The best thing to do is to be able to get out as fast as possible."

When his teams went back down the mine again, in the early hours of Saturday morning, they were faced with the tragic sight of dead bodies.

Borekci was in tears describing the scene.

The survivors, not in a position to talk, were taken to hospital.

The local public prosecutor's office has said it is treating the explosion as an accident and has launched a formal investigation.

Co-workers of the coal miners trapped under the rubble wait at the explosion site of a coal mine in Turkiye's northern Bartin province on October 15, 2022.
Co-workers of the coal miners trapped under the rubble wait at the explosion site of a coal mine in Turkiye's northern Bartin province on October 15, 2022. (Muhammed Abdullah Kurtar / AA)

'Words are not enough'

Adem Usluoglu, who works for another mine in the region, heard the news on his way home from work and ran to help the rescue effort.

"We are at a point where words are not enough. Our throats gets stuck and our tongues are unable to get around the words," he said.

"We don't want to experience this kind of sufferings again. I can't find anything more to say."

READ MORE: Türkiye's coal mine blast: Condolences pour in from world leaders

Around 600 workers are believed to work in the Amasra mine, which produces 300,000 to 400,000 tonnes of coal per year.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies