Turkey mine explosion: Hundreds come to Soma to bury their dead and support the living


“He’s the 10th grave,” Hasan Cakrem said, pointing to a pile of earth in the long line of heaps covered in rocks and flowers. Ugur Colak was 26 when he was killed in Turkey’s worst mining disaster with hundreds of his colleagues. He was a father to two children, both under 12 months. Ugur’s body was recovered at 4pm today. Carried feet first through the crowd of families and friends, he was covered by a blanket, with just his muddied boots in view.

Like 200 others, he was taken to the makeshift morgue in Kirkagac, a small agricultural village near Soma, and the home of the biggest cold store in the area. It is usually used to store melons.

His face was blackened Hasan said, burned beyond recognition, and he could be identified only by the tattoo he had of his name on his left wrist. The victims are laid here to be officially identified – mostly by using the numbers on the helmets they were wearing when they died. Only a handful have had to be identified by DNA testing.

Hasan, 62, a retired miner from Balikesir, had driven the two hours to Soma to support his friends who lost their son. He classes them as family. Sitting in Soma’s graveyard, he was huddled close to four elderly woman. All have made the journey to Soma to support the bereaved. Behind them are hundreds of plastic green chairs, laid out for mourners. But people don’t sit; they stand for their dead, who arrive one by one to be buried side by side.


Ahmet Aksar is a civil engineer, but has swapped his office for a Red Crescent tabard and awaits families outside the morgue in Kirkagac. “It was crowded here yesterday, he said, but much slower today.” As he speaks, a hearse passes – its contents a green municipality coffin – and the commotion dissipates for a moment.

Hasan and Ahmet are among many in the region who have travelled to Soma to support the townspeople in their time of great need. The vast majority of the search-and-rescue teams are volunteers, and Turkey’s Red Crescent lines every point where people gather to hand out water, food and moral support. The team at the entrance to Soma’s graveyard firmly put sustenance into the hands of the thousands of mourners that have come to pay their respects to the dead.


At the mine, hope has gone for finding any survivors, yet hundreds of rescue workers remain at the site. Ambulances line the road to the entrance of the mine while relatives and friends wait for their brothers, fathers, husbands and sons to be delivered back to them.

In Soma town, hundreds of people gather to remember the dead. Orange hats fly through the air as they are thrown to the crowd to symbolise the hard hats worn by the miners. Young and old come together and wear pictures of the miners on their chests and chant: “Do not forget – pay your respect to the dead.”