A miner in the Turkish pit tragedy told how a colleague tried to kill himself rather than be burnt alive in the inferno.
Hasan Ozdil also revealed other stranded workers bashed their heads against walls in frustration knowing they faced certain death after the explosion.
He spoke as unions claim the death toll, which yesterday stood at around 284 with 18 people still missing, could reach up to 500.
Distraught Hasan said: “I saw a worker with a belt around his neck as he tried to commit suicide. There was gas so I withdrew.
“I was told some of the workers had hit their heads against the walls.
“Their masks were not working. I have carried this mask for three years but still don’t know what good it does.
“The masks have to be inspected every six months, but no one inspects.”
The blast at the mine near Soma sparked violent protests against alleged poor safety and corruption by officials.
But owner Alp Gurkan hit back and insisted he had spent his own money on improving safety .
He said of the accusations: “I am hurting inside.” Mine engineer Akin Celik added: “There is no negligence.
“We would not want harm to come to a single fingernail of our workers.”
Energy minister Taner Yildiz warned anyone found to have been negligent can expect to face a heavy punishment.
He said: “We won’t take any notice of their tears. If they are at fault, no tolerance will be shown, whether they are from the public or private sector.” The Turkish government claim the final death toll will be around 320.
But many political parties and unions believe that prediction is way too low.
One union chief said: “They are playing the numbers down. We believe the final total will definitely be more than 400 and possibly as high as 500.
“But until we can get right inside the mine no one knows.”