Turkey coal mine explosion: Officials deny negligence as mine operator admits there was no rescue chamber

The Soma mine chairman said if the accident had happened three to four months later, rescue chambers would have been ready

The final death toll from the Turkey coal mine explosion is expected to reach 300, officials have admitted the main rescue chamber had been “disassembled” and miners are still trapped underground, but officials are continuing to deny any negligence over the country's worst mining disaster in history.

Some 284 miners are known to have died in the Soma mine and Energy Minister Taner Yildiz has announced he believes there are “no more than 18” still trapped underground.

In a news conference today, the mine owners defended their response to the disaster and denied all claims of negligence, while conceding they still had no idea how the tragedy occurred.

Officials at the conference said there was no working refuge chamber in the mine, but stressed there had been an escape route close to ground level, giving workers an exit to leave from without having to walk 300 metres to the entrance.

Soma Holding Chairman Alp Gurkan told the conference that when the facility was first established, the main refuge room could hold 500 people, but this was closed when production finished in that part of the mine.

"We disassembled the rescue chamber here because the production had stopped. We didn't need a chamber in this area, our production was in the lower levels," he explained.

Preparations were underway to build refuge rooms in a deeper part of the mine, where work had been moved to.

He said they had taken all precautions and measures required in mines by law and claimed work was underway on building a new rescue chamber. "If this accident had taken place three or four months later, we would have had production here and we would have had a rescue chamber here," he told the press conference.

Mr Gurkan said he was in a "terrible state" over the tragedy, but insisted they were not obliged to have a working rescue chamber by law. “I am in severe pain. People who know me would understand,” he added.

Read more: Protester attacked by adviser to Turkish PM
Turkish PM accused of 'slapping protester'

The news comes as the main operator of the mine insisted the fire was not linked to the sub-station, and was instead the product of a build-up of heat.

Ramazan Dogru, the general manager of the mine, rejected initial reports that claimed the fire was caused by an explosion at a power distribution unit.

"It was an unbelievable accident in a place where there have been very few accidents in 30 years," Mr Gurkan said. "A mine with top level miners, accepted as being the most trustworthy and organised."

Official experts will go down and inspect the mine once all of the bodies have been recovered, and they will then provide a report on how the tragedy occurred, officials said.

"We still do not know how the accident happened. There is no negligence of ours in this incident. We all worked heart and soul," said Akin Celik, the plant manager of the mine.

The company said a total of 787 workers had been in the mine at the time, of which 122 had been hospitalised and a further 363 evacuated.

Sport
premier leagueLive: All the latest news and scores from today's matches
News
newsMcKamey Manor says 'there is no escape until the tour is completed'
News
Queen Elizabeth II sends the first royal tweet under her own name to declare the opening of the new Information Age Galleries at the Science Museum, South Kensington, London
media... and the BBC was there to document one of the worst reactions
News
politics
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi during Barcelona training in August
footballPete Jenson co-ghost wrote Suarez’s autobiography and reveals how desperate he's been to return
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
newsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
News
Laurence Easeman and Russell Brand
people
Sport
Fans of Dulwich Hamlet FC at their ground Champion Hill
footballFans are rejecting the £2,000 season tickets, officious stewarding, and airline-stadium sponsorship
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker