Turkey coal mine explosion: Tear gas fired at protesters as unions stage nation-wide strike

Three days of mourning begin today for the victims of the Soma mine disaster

Anti-government protests have erupted across cities in Turkey as the death toll from an explosion in a coal mine swelled to at least 282, in the worst mining disaster in Turkish history.

Turkish police fired tear gas and water cannons at thousands of protesters in Istanbul as unions staged a one-day nationwide strike over what they say are poor safety standards since the formerly state-run facilities were leased to private companies.

Amid wails of grief and anger, rescue workers coated in grime trudged repeatedly out of the mine on Wednesday with stretchers of bodies as hopes faded for the 120 miners still trapped in the town of Soma.

Eight more bodies were recovered from the mine on Thursday. Energy minister Taner Yildiz told reporters that rescue efforts are now focusing on two areas inside the mine where a blaze is still raging and hindering the operation.

Three days of national mourning began today, while the head of the Confederation of Revolutionary Trade Unions called on citizens to wear black.

Anti-government protests broke out in Soma, as well as Istanbul and the capital, Ankara. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Mr Erdogan was heckled as he visited the town and spoke during a news conference, where he defended Turkey’s mining safety record by saying: "These are ordinary things. There is a thing in literature called `work accident'... It happens in other work places, too."

 

Protesters shouted "murderer!" and "thief!" and Mr Erdogan was forced to seek refuge in a supermarket, surrounded by police. In Turkey’s capital Ankara police fired water cannons and tear gas at 800 protesters marching to the Energy Ministers office and the town’s ruling party offices were also attacked.

In Istanbul, hundreds of demonstrators gathered outside the headquarters of mine owner Soma Komur Isletmeleri A.S. Police used tear gas and water cannon to break up a group who tried to march to the city's iconic Taksim Square to denounce poor safety conditions.

Rescue operations were brought to a halt for several hours on Thursday morning to allow high concentrations of gas underground to be cleared. Officials said 363 miners had been evacuated, but no survivors have been brought out since Wednesday morning. There were 787 people inside the mine at the time of the explosion, approximately four miles from the entrance and two miles underground. 

Tensions were high as hundreds of relatives and miners jostled outside the entrance Wednesday, waiting for news amid a heavy police presence. Rows of women wailed uncontrollably and men knelt sobbing or simply stared in disbelief as rescue workers removed body after body, some charred beyond recognition.

Fences were erected and police stood guard outside Soma's hospital, where scores of the injured were being treated. Some residents said the men were being pressured by the mining company not to talk about the blast.

The death toll has topped a 1992 gas explosion that killed 263 workers near Turkey's Black Sea port of Zonguldak. It also left 150 miners still unaccounted for.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
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

Recruitment Genius: Retirement Coordinator - Financial Services

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: To provide a prompt, friendly and efficient se...

Recruitment Genius: Annuities / Pensions Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: You will be the first point of contact for all...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee CAD Technician

£12800 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Trainee CAD Technician is req...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £25,000+

£15600 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This renewable energy installat...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss