Police used teargas and water cannons Friday to disperse some 10,000 protesters chanting anti-government slogans in Soma, where almost 300 mine workers died earlier this week in Turkey's worst-ever mining disaster.
Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz told reporters Saturday that the bodies of 15 miners were retrieved overnight, bringing the death to 299, and as many as three workers were still in the mine. They were unlikely to be alive, four days after an initial fire sent deadly carbon monoxide coursing through the mine.
Another fire broke out Saturday, hindering efforts to search the mine.
The mine operator has denied negligence in Turkey's worst-ever industrial disaster.
“We still do not know how the accident happened. There is no negligence of ours in this incident. We all worked heart and soul,” Akin Celik, the plant manager of the mine, run by Soma Holding, said earlier on Friday.
Soma Holding said that 363 people were evacuated from the mine after fire broke out on Tuesday and a further 122 miners were hospitalised. It said there were 787 miners working at the time.
No miner has been brought out alive since Wednesday. The mine operator said on Friday that a build-up of heat had caused a partial collapse, denying initial reports that a fire had been linked to an electricity sub-station.
Crisis becomes politicised
Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan visited Soma Wednesday, where he was made unwelcome by angry families of miners and protesters.
Erdogan, who is expected to soon announce his candidacy for Turkey’s presidential election in August, was forced to take refuge at a supermarket after angry crowds called him a murderer and a thief, in a reference to alleged corruption, and clashed with police.
Erdogan had appeared somewhat tone-deaf to residents’ grief Wednesday, calling mining accidents “ordinary things” that occur in many other countries.
In contrast, Turkish President Abdullah Gul, visiting Soma on Thursday, described the coal mine explosion as “a huge disaster.”
“The pain is felt by us all,” he said.
The mood was more restrained than during Erdogan’s visit, though locals angry at what they saw as the slow rescue operation still shouted at him, demanding that more should be done to reach possible survivors.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS, AFP)
Date created : 2014-05-16