A warehouse in the Turkish town of Soma which was built to stock melons has been turned into a makeshift morgue as the bodies of victims from the coal mine tragedy continue to pile up.

Turkish authorities are braced for worse news from the town in the western province of Manisa, as the death toll has increased to 201, while hundreds of miners remain trapped.

"The mining accident that we have seen at this private facility today is truly a workplace murder of the highest degree. We are currently faced with the worst workplace murder in the country's history," said Çetin Uygur, former chief of the miners' union Maden-İş.

Rescuers are racing against time and efforts to save the trapped miners are "reaching a critical stage", said Energy Minister Taner Yildiz.

He said: "Time is working against us. We fear that the numbers could rise further. We have to finish this [rescue operation] by dawn. I have to say that our pain, our trouble could increase."

Outside the mine's entrance, eager onlookers are cheering whenever rescuers bring out workers alive. Scores of ambulances, including one air ambulance, are on the scene ferrying the dead and injured victims away.

Officials have erected temporary fences outside the Soma state hospital in order to keep the swelling mob away.

The owners of the mine, SOMA Kömür İşletmeleri A.Ş said the disaster occurred despite the "highest safety measures and constant controls."

The firm said: "Our main priority is to get our workers out so that they may be reunited with their loved ones."

The power transformer is believed to have exploded following an electric fault which set the mine on fire. There were about 787 miners underground when the inferno broke out.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has cancelled his scheduled trip to Albania and is set to visit Soma.