(CNN) -- A methane gas explosion at a coal mine in western Turkey killed 19 miners, federal officials said Friday.
Three survivors were pulled from the mine after the explosion Thursday in the town of Mustafakemalpasa, in the western province of Bursa.
Rescuers tried to reach the others, but they were forced to remove debris by hand because the area was too soft to withstand heavy machinery, said Labor and Social Security Minister Omer Dincer.
The mine had operated since 1983 without such an accident, he added.
"The ground support there totally collapsed on the impact of the explosion," Dincer said, according to Turkey's official Anadolu news agency.
Journalist Yesim Comert contributed to this report from Istanbul.