A coal mine explosion in Turkey kills at least 40 people

ISTANBUL – An explosion in a coal mine near Turkey’s Black Sea coast killed at least 40 people and left more trapped underground as first responders rushed to extract them, Turkish authorities said Saturday.

The disaster represents a new challenge for the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose office said it planned to travel to the disaster site to monitor relief efforts in the city of Amasra, about 180 miles northeast of Istanbul.

The blast on Friday evening was caused by fireside or flammable gases in the mine, said Turkish Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Fatih Donmez.

The death toll from the disaster rose to 40 on Saturday, Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said, according to the Turkish state news agency. Mr. Soylu said 110 workers had been in the mine at the time of the explosion.

About 58 miners were rescued, of whom 11 were treated in hospitals, according to Fahrettin Altun, assistant to Mr. Erdogan and head of the Turkish government’s communications directorate.

On Saturday afternoon, authorities said they were still trying to free some trapped miners.

“All of our institutions are working meticulously on all matters relating to the explosion,” Mr. Erdogan said on Twitter at the end of Friday. He also said prosecutors had been tasked with investigating the cause of the explosion in a state-owned mine.

The explosion echoes a 2014 disaster in which 301 people died following an explosion at another mine in Turkey. The incident catalyzed protests and a trial in which five mining executives were sentenced to prison terms.

The 2014 disaster, the worst in Turkey’s history, raised tensions over the regulation of mines by the Turkish authorities. Families of miners killed at the Soma Holding Eynez coal mine said the explosion was preceded by years of ineffective inspections, lack of equipment, and a general failure to enforce safety standards.

Mr. Erdogan, who was prime minister at the time of the 2014 blast, said mining accidents were part of the nature of the job. Protesters booed the Turkish leader when he visited the crash site in Soma, western Turkey.

The Turkish government’s handling of disasters has been a challenge for Mr. Erdogan in recent years. The fires that swept Turkey’s Mediterranean coast in 2021 provoked public criticism of the government’s preparedness and response. At least nine people died in the fires, which burned nearly 200 square miles of land and threatened power plants.

Write to Jared Malsin at jared.malsin@wsj.com

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