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Updated: Sat, 17 May 2014 07:39:19 GMT | By The Associated Press, cbc.ca

Turkey mine search ends with death toll at 301



A body of miner is carried to an ambulance in Soma, a district in Turkey's western province of Manisa, late May 16, 2014. The death toll in this week's mining accident in western Turkey is unlikely to be more than 302 people, Turkey's Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said on Friday. A maximum of 18 people are still in the coal mine, Yildiz told reporters in televised comments on the country's deadliest ever mine disaster. REUTERS/Osman Orsal (© TURKEY - Tags: DISASTER ENERGY)

A body of miner is carried to an ambulance in Soma, a district in Turkey's western province of Manisa, late May 16, 2014. The death toll in this week's mining accident in western Turkey is unlikely to be more than 302 people, Turkey's Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said on Friday. A maximum of 18 people are still in the coal mine, Yildiz told reporters in televised comments on the country's deadliest ever mine disaster. REUTERS/Osman Orsal (TURKEY - Tags: DISASTER ENERGY) - RTR3PJTT Osman Orsal/Reuters

Turkish rescue workers have completed their search in Turkey's worst mining disaster after retrieving the bodies of the last two missing miners, the nation's energy minister said Saturday.

Taner Yildiz said the death toll from the May 13 explosion and fire that devastated a coal mine in Soma, western Turkey is 301. Another 485 miners escaped or were rescued, he said.

"All corners of the mine were searched by a large team and there was no other body or living person," he said.

"Until today we had focused on search and rescue efforts. Now we will be focusing on investigations, on what will happen about production," Yildiz said.

"We won't be leaving (Soma) because the search efforts are ending," he added. "There will be psychological and social support."

Government and mining officials have insisted that the disaster was not due to negligence and the mine was inspected regularly.

Akin Celik, the Soma mine's operations manager, has said thick smoke from the underground fire killed many miners who had no gas masks.

High levels of carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide have also been a problem for rescue workers as well.

But one miner, 24-year-old Erdal Bicak, told The Associated Press he believes the disaster was due to negligence by the mining company.

"The company is guilty," Bicak said, adding that managers had machines that measure methane gas levels. "The new gas levels had gotten too high and they didn't tell us in time."

Yildiz said "the true cause of the accident will be assessed ... through different dimensions. There will be lessons to draw for the mining world."

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