One man's remarkable survival tale gives hope amid gloom
The sirens sounded like a mournful call for the dead.
Every few minutes, it would emit a grim wail, setting in train a process that would begin with clunking machinery and end with the arrival of another dead miner – hoisted to the surface from far below ground by a mechanism designed for transporting coal.
In one 10-minute spell, four victims were brought from the scene of one of Turkey's worst mining disasters.
Against a backdrop of noxious fumes, a brief shout went up each time from a gathering of rescue workers, relatives and concerned onlookers before a dead body on a stretcher was carried away by four men in hard hats.
The first corpse was tightly wrapped in what looked like a black canvas body bag; the second in a pink blanket. Their physical state could not be seen, but the pervasive stench of gas indicated that the deaths were caused by poisoning.
A team of shattered-looking ad hoc rescue workers – taking a break nearby after a harrowing day of recovering bodies – said as much.
"Most died because of carbon monoxide poisoning. There was not a huge explosion," said Erhan Aydemir (33), a mine worker for 11 years who said he had helped to bring the body of his best friend's brother from the mine.
"We know there's going to be no one left down there, but we feel the responsibility to bring these bodies back to the families."
Yet out of the gloom was one uplifting story of survival.
Dursun Gul (43), who said one of his closest friends remained trapped underground, described rescuing a miner who had saved himself from asphyxiation by covering his head with his jacket for three and a half hours.
The man had taken occasional gulps of oxygen from a pipe whose surface had been broken by stones from the explosion.
Officials with the prime minister's disaster and emergencies management agency appeared pessimistic about the prospects of other such inspiring tales. (© Daily Telegraph, London)