Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.


Turkey holds protest strike after 282 miner deaths

15 May 2014, 18:21

Soma - Turkey's four biggest unions will hold a one-day protest strike on Thursday as anger over the country's worst mining accident mounts, with 282 workers confirmed dead and scores still trapped underground.

The unions said workers' lives were being put at risk to cut costs, and demanded that those responsible for the collapse of a coal mine in the western town of Soma in Manisa province be brought to account.

"Hundreds of our workers have been left to die from the very beginning by being forced to work in cruel production processes to achieve maximum profits," they said in a joint statement, calling on people to wear black.

"We call on the working class and friends of labourers to stand up for our brothers in Soma."

Anger at the disaster has swept across Turkey, where mining accidents are a frequent occurrence.

On Wednesday, thousands of protestors clashed with police in Ankara and Istanbul, accusing the government and mining industry of negligence.

The prosecutor's office in Soma has launched an investigation into the cause of the disaster, which has added to the pressure on Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The premier has rejected claims of government culpability, saying that "such accidents happen". In an apparent attempt to downplay the disaster, he compared it disaster to other mining disasters elsewhere, saying that "204 people died in the UK in 1862 and 361 people in 1864".

An electrical fault

It is unclear how many workers are still trapped underground following the huge explosion at the mine on Tuesday, which was believed to have been set off by an electrical fault.

Mining operators put the figure at 90, but reports from rescue workers on the scene suggest the figure could be far higher. Most of the victims died of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Erdogan was forced to take refuge in a shop after a furious reaction from relatives of the victims and the missing, some of whom began kicking his vehicle.

An adviser of Erdogan was photographed kicking a protester in Soma, sparking outrage on social media.

Public anger also spilled onto the streets, where police used tear gas and water canon to disperse between 3 000 and 4 000 protesters in Ankara's downtown Kizilay Square, as well as thousands of demonstrators in Istanbul.

The disaster has added to the political pressure on Erdogan, who faced mass protests last summer and a huge corruption scandal involving his family and key allies in recent months.

"If the claims of negligence at the mine prove true, it will have a political price. Such a development would render corruption allegations targeting Erdogan's government more convincing," Professor Ilter Turan of Istanbul's Bilgi University told AFP.

Messages of condolence poured in from celebrities including superstar Rihanna, actress Eva Longoria and supermodel Adriana Lima.

Rihanna changed the background picture of her Twitter profile page in memory of the Turkish victims, while Lima wrote: "My thoughts are with you #turkey #soma".

'No more hope'

Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said early on Thursday that the provisional toll had risen to 282 after more bodies were pulled out of the pit. No one has come out alive in the past 12 hours, he said.

Another 27 workers are being treated in hospital, and families of the miners who died in the disaster have begun to retrieve their bodies from a makeshift morgue a few kilometers from Soma.

Alahattin Mengucek, who came from Izmir to retrieve his son's body, said: "I'm waiting for my son. I've lost him in the mine; he just became a father eight months ago".

"What happened is just bad luck. The government is doing whatever it can to help us, but what can we do against fire and gas?" he added.

Raging fires have hampered rescue efforts, and emergency workers have still not been able to reach two underground shafts.

"We will try to save those who are still stuck one by one, but you know very well that there is no more hope. It's finished for them," said Murat Kurkoglu, a miner who joined the rescue effort.

Early reports said 787 workers were underground when the blast occurred. By late Wednesday, "close to 450" workers had been rescued, according to the mine operator, Soma Komur.

But accounts from rescue workers cast doubt over these numbers.

Erdem Bakin, a doctor with the Search and Rescue organisation, said only around 70-80 people who were between the mine entrance and the transformer that exploded had survived.

"Those who were beyond were taken by the fire and they are all dead," he said.

'Tired of funerals'

Explosions and cave-ins are common in Turkey, particularly in private mines, where safety regulations are often flouted.

Turkey's previous worst mining accident happened in 1992 when 263 workers were killed in a gas explosion in a mine in Zonguldak.

A lawmaker from the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) said it asked parliament last month to investigate work-related accidents at coal mines in Soma, but the government turned down the request.

"We receive tip-offs every day that workers' lives are under threat," local lawmaker Ozgur Ozel told Turkish media.

"We lawmakers from Manisa are tired of going to miner funerals."

Turkey's ministry of labour and social security said the mine had been inspected eight times in the last four years, most recently on 17 March, and was found to comply with safety regulations.

Mining company Soma Komur said it had taken maximum measures to ensure safety.

Soma is a key centre for lignite coal mining and is located around 480km southwest of Istanbul.



Read News24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Read more from our Users

Nigeria @ 56: Words to my green f...

A leader’s job is not to dictate, but rather to be respected, admired and be a trustee, of the land we love, with so much potential, a land which should be freer than free. Its still a long way to fufilling our destiny! Read more...

Submitted by
Isaac Asabor263
Recession: An opportunity for Nig...

The recession should be seen as an opportunity for the country’s promotion as long as we all collectively conduct ourselves in a patriotic manner, writes Isaac Asabor.  Read more...

Submitted by
Black and White

We want to imitate the whites in everything because we are ignorant of our inherent originality and content. We spend all our Naira to acquire his inventions because we so oblivious of our natural endowments that we allow him have it for free. Read more...

Submitted by
Nate Nat
Adamawa State University Mubi: A ...

ADSU integrity forum has accused the Sunday Joshua Wugira, a lawyer, of adopting unorthodox tactics by abusing his privilege by attacking the integrity of ADSU Vice Chancellor Dr. Moses Zira Zaruwa, writes a News24 reader. Read more...

Submitted by
Abdulsalam Jubril
My Country Nigeria (Part One)

Poetry by Abdulsalam Jubril.

Submitted by
Abdulsalam Jubril
Recession, dearth in leadership a...

Every leader has the opportunity to become great and making himself immortal in the lives and hearts of people for generations to come. Will Mr. President seize this opportunity?, questions Abdulsalam Jubril. Read more...