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Ermenek in Karaman province turkey  mineUnderground waters flooded a section of a coal mine in southern Turkey on Tuesday, trapping at least 18 workers, officials and reports said – an event likely to raise even more concerns about the nation’s poor workplace safety standards.

Initial reports said flooding inside the Has Sekerler mine near the town of Ermenek in Karaman province caused a cave-in, but subsequent reports said the workers were trapped by the surging waters. It was not immediately clear what caused the flooding.

Gov. Murat Koca said about 20 other workers escaped or were rescued from the mine, some 500 kilometers (300 miles) south of Ankara, close to Turkey’s Mediterranean coast

Sahin Uyar, an official at the privately owned coal mine, told private NTV television that the miners were stuck more than 300 meters (330 yards) underground.

“At the moment, 18 of our colleagues are trapped. We are working to pump water out from three sections of the mine,” he told NTV, adding that rescue crews had made no contact with the miners.

Uyar said the trapped workers’ chances of survival were slim unless they had managed to reach a safety gallery.

Turkey’s ministers for energy and transportation immediately left Ankara, the capital, to oversee the rescue operation.

In May, a fire inside a coal mine in the western town of Soma killed 301 miners in Turkey’s worst mining disaster. The fire exposed poor safety standards and superficial government inspections in many of the country’s mines.

The Associated Press

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