News / Europe

Protests Erupt After Turkish Mine Disaster

  • The body of a miner is carried to an ambulance in Soma, western Turkey, May 14, 2014.
  • Relatives of miners trapped in a coal mine wait in front of the site in Soma, western Turkey, May 14, 2014.
  • Family members wait outside a coal mine in Soma, western Turkey, May 14, 2014.
  • Family members wait outside a coal mine where more than 200 miners have been trapped after an explosion, in Soma, western Turkey, May 14, 2014.
  • A man kisses his son, rescued from the coal mine after an explosion, in Manisa, May 13, 2014.
  • Medics help a rescued miner after a deadly explosion and fire at a coal mine in Soma, western Turkey, May 13, 2014.
  • Medics, ambulances and relatives are seen at the entrance of a coal mine hours after a deadly explosion and fire in Soma, western Turkey, May 13, 2014.
  • Miners carry a rescued friend hours after a deadly explosion and fire at a coal mine in Soma, western Turkey, May 13, 2014.
  • Family members gather near the mine after a deadly explosion and fire at a coal mine in Soma, western Turkey, May 13, 2014.
  • An injured miner is carried into a hospital in Soma, western Turkey, May 13, 2014.
  • Two rescued miners sit waiting after an explosion and fire at a coal mine, in Soma, western Turkey, May 13, 2014.
Deadly Coal Mine Fire in Western Turkey
Dorian Jones
The death toll in a coal mine disaster in western Turkey increased to 274, with 80 more injured, Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said Wednesday after visiting the mine in Soma, southwest of Istanbul.

Erdogan also told reporters Wednesday that 120 workers are believed to remain trapped in what could be Turkey's worst ever industrial disaster.

Postponing a trip to Albania, Erdogan instead travelled to Soma district of Manisa, site of the disaster and home to some 16,000 miners, where he met with authorities handling rescue operations and grieving family members.
 
Riot police run from fire bombs thrown by protesters as they blame ruling AK Party government for mining disaster in western Turkey, Ankara, May 14, 2014.Riot police run from fire bombs thrown by protesters as they blame ruling AK Party government for mining disaster in western Turkey, Ankara, May 14, 2014.
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Riot police run from fire bombs thrown by protesters as they blame ruling AK Party government for mining disaster in western Turkey, Ankara, May 14, 2014.
Riot police run from fire bombs thrown by protesters as they blame ruling AK Party government for mining disaster in western Turkey, Ankara, May 14, 2014.
According to some reports, relatives and friends of the missing continue to await updates outside the stricken mine, but hope is fading for up to 200 miners still trapped inside.

At the mine, Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz says although oxygen is being pumped into the mine, which is more than a kilometer deep, rescue efforts have been repeatedly suspended due to high levels of carbon monoxide.

Soma Komur Isletmeleri, that company that operates the mine, says nearly 450 miners were rescued and that most of the deaths are believed to have been caused by suffocation. One miner involved in the rescue efforts says there is little hope left of finding more survivors

"Rescuers cannot enter the mine anymore," he said. "I heard that at least three miners who went in to rescue others have died."

A cold storage warehouse, usually used for food and freezer trucks, served as makeshift morgues as hospital facilities overflowed. Medical staff intermittently emerged from the hospital to read the names of survivors being treated inside, with families and fellow workers clamoring for information.

Teams of psychiatrists were being pulled together to help counsel the families of victims. Paramilitary police guarded the entrance to the mine to keep distressed relatives at a safe distance from the rescue effort.
 
Soma, TurkeySoma, Turkey
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Soma, Turkey
Soma, Turkey
Authorities say the collapse was caused by an electrical fault that ignited an explosion and fire, which is still believed to be burning in some parts of the mine.

Relatives have voiced anger over a lack of information as the government is under increasing pressure for recently refusing parliamentary opposition calls to investigate the owners of the mine over safety concerns.

Amid massive security operation, the prime minister visited Soma Wednesday, where protesters in kicked his car while calling for government resignations.

Addressing journalists, Erdogan cited 19th century mining disasters in the United Kingdom, claiming such tragedies were not confined to Turkey.
 
March 3013 - Tibet
A landslide buries 83 miners in Central Tibet.

August 2010 - Democratic Republic of Congo
At least 60 miners die when a gold mine shaft collapses in a region controled by an armed rebel group.

March 2011 - Pakistan
Dozens are killed when after a methane explosion at a coal mine near Quetta.

November 2010 - New Zealand
Twenty nine coal miners trapped for five days after an explosion die after a second blast caused by methane gas.

October 2010 - Chile
Trapped for more than two months, 33 miners are rescued after a cave-in at a gold and copper mine in northern Chile.

April 2010- - United States
An explosion at a coal mine in West Virginia kills 29 miners.
"About 204 people died in Britain after a mine collapse in 1838, 361 miners died there in 1866, and an explosion in 1894, 290 people died in Wales," he said, promising a thorough investigation of Tuesday's disaster.

Kemal Kiliçdaroglu, leader of Turkey's Republican People's Party, the group that issued calls last year to address occupational concerns for miners, was expected to visit Soma Wednesday.

Kani Beko, head of the leftwing trade union federation DISK, blames industry-wide privatization and subcontracting for the deadly accident.

"Occupational safety and health of workers is being neglected," he said, calling the accident a "massacre."

Protests

In Istanbul calls to protest working conditions were issued via social media, some encouraging demonstrators to congregate at the Soma Komur Isletmeleri headquarters, where the words "this building is built on the blood of the workers" was written on the wall.

Incidents of violence were reported at protests in Ankara, where police purported fired used tear gas canisters and water cannons to disperse students marching on the Energy Ministry.

At Istanbul's Taksim Square, two left-wing opposition newspaper vendors read out headlines to silent morning commuters: “Turkey is a graveyard for workers,” and “this wasn't an accident, this was negligence.”

The company said in a brief statement late on Tuesday that there had been “a grave accident” caused by an explosion in a substation but gave few other details.

Response

The United States and other countries expressed sympathy to friends and relatives of those killed in the explosion.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Turkey today in the wake of a coal mine explosion in Soma in which some 200 have been killed and hundreds more remain trapped," White House spokesman Jay Carney said, echoing a State Department announcement expressing condolences and "hope that ongoing rescue efforts are successful and those who were injured make a full recovery."

"The United States stands with Turkey during this period of national mourning," it said.

Poor record

Turkey's coal mines are notoriously dangerous, prompting some in parliament to demand an investigation into poor safety conditions.

The International Labor Organization ranked the EU candidate nation third worst in the world for worker deaths in 2012.

Turkey's rapid growth over the past decade has seen a construction boom and a scramble to meet soaring energy demands, with worker safety standards often failing to keep pace.

Its safety record for coal mining has been poor for decades, with its deadliest accident to date in 1992, when a gas blast killed 263 workers in the Black Sea province of Zonguldak.

The Labor Ministry said late on Tuesday its officials had carried out regular inspections at the Soma mine, most recently in March, and that no irregularities had been detected.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.

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Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Calvin Sanders from: NJ, USA
May 20, 2014 7:53 AM
As a parent, I find it very hard to secure the safety of my children. I am a father of two lovely daughters. Both go to high school. I can't be with them every single time. Me and my wife go to work everyday. It's hard to be certain about their whereabouts and situation. Good thing I discovered this amazing application installed on my children's phones.

It has a panic button that my children will press in case of an emergency. As simple as that it will automatically be connected to a 24/7 Response center and if needed, your call can be escalated to the nearest 911 Station. Me, along with my wife and close friends as my children's safety network, will be notified also through text message or a conference call. I worry less. This can help you too.

by: Keira from: Cyprus
May 15, 2014 11:49 AM
This is the best time to protest. Obviously taking the subdued option hasn't worked with multiple deaths as a result.

They claim that the site was inspected in March. If this is correct the power distribution unit is considered a hostile operating equipment, thus should have been tested for reliability recently. Pure negligence on the companies part.

by: salome wambui from: kenya.kitui
May 14, 2014 4:21 PM
For Gods sake,do not protest.This is a natural disaster which can happen anywhere,your protesting will worsen the situation.Lets concetrate on rescuing the peopple and the rest will follow later on.
In Response

by: Anonymous
May 15, 2014 3:39 AM
agree to this point

by: SuzieQue from: NC USA
May 14, 2014 12:16 PM
I hope the media will report on the reason the transformer blew up and caught fire in the first place. That isn't supposed to happen.

by: Not Again from: Canada
May 14, 2014 10:26 AM
A very terrible tragedy has befallen the Turkish people; our hearts go out to the families and friends of the victims. This type of serious and deadly incident is, unfortunately, very common in the coal industry on a global scale. Governments bear the brunt of the responsibility because they very ineptly enforce and develop safety standards, if at all. A simple issue of not ensuring electrical equipment, or any other equipment that could cause a fire/spark/open flame, is not adequately dealt with, is just the tip of the unsafe iceberg in coal mines, causing fatalities.

As usual big statements of improvement of conditions will be made by the govt/industry/etc, but no real changes will occur after the cloud of time passes over the incident, and everyone slacks off until the next occurrence. A very sad state of affairs.

by: Yuanyuan from: China
May 14, 2014 10:18 AM
God blesses Turkey.l wish more survivals to be alive.The goverment should enforce the related laws to ensure labor safety.

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