Turkey mine explosion: New fire hampers recovery efforts

Another fire has broken out underground as the death toll nears 300

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The Independent Online

Another fire has broken out in the Turkish mine where an explosion killed at least 300 people.

The blaze and increased gas levels in the coal mine are hampering search efforts for those believed to be trapped underground.

Emergency crews retrieved the body of one more miner overnight on Friday, bringing the confirmed death toll to 299.

The tragedy, which is Turkey’s worst ever mining disaster, has sparked protests across the country and anger at the Government and company’s perceived negligence.

A survivor claimed safety inspectors never visited the lower reaches of the mine, in Soma, but officials have denied that neglect caused the deadly explosion and fire.

On Friday, an estimated 1,500 demonstrators gathered in the town calling on the Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, to resign.

Police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse crowds throwing missiles and chanting at Mr Erdogan, who sought refuge in a supermarket.

Footage appeared to show his bodyguards hitting a protester and the Prime Minister himself was accused of slapping a man.

In Istanbul, police forcefully broke up a crowd of about 150 people who lit candles and lined up mining helmets on the ground to honour victims, the DHA news agency reported.

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Workers have described the disaster as murder, not an accident, because of alleged safety negligence at the mine and others in the country.

Erdal Bicak, 24, said he had just ended his shift on Tuesday and was making his way to the surface when mine managers ordered him back down because of a problem.

“The company is guilty,” he said, adding that managers had machines that measure methane gas levels.

“The new gas levels had got too high and they didn't tell us in time.”

The government has asked for a parliamentary inquiry into the disaster to find out what happened and why - but it appeared that officials had already made up their minds yesterday.

“There's no negligence with respect to this incident,” insisted Huseyin Celik, a deputy leader of the ruling party.

The death toll is expected to reach 302 when the final missing miners are found. Another 485 escaped or were rescued.