‘They all had dreams’: Turkey mourns victims of coal mine explosion as death toll climbs to 41

Authorities say explosion happened at a place 300 metres below the ground, likely caused by flammable methane gas in the coal mine

Vishwam Sankaran,Alastair Jamieson
Saturday 15 October 2022 20:32 BST
Comments
Miners trapped underground after deadly coal mine blast in Turkey
Leer en Español

Funerals for miners killed in a coal mine explosion in northern Turkey began on Saturday as officials raised the death toll to at least 41.

Desperate relatives had waited all night in the cold outside the state-owned Turkish Hard Coal Enterprise's (TTK) mine in the town of Amasra, in the Black Sea coastal province of Bartin, hoping for news.

There were 110 miners working several hundred meters below ground at the time of the explosion on Friday evening.

Women cried at the funeral of miner Selcuk Ayvaz, whose coffin was wrapped in the Turkish flag. Another miner, 28-year-old Aziz Kose, held his newborn baby just days ago. They mostly came from working-class families and went underground to the coal mines to make a living.

A relative mourns mine blast victim Ridvan Acet in Kazpinar Bartin province, Turkey on Saturday
A relative mourns mine blast victim Ridvan Acet in Kazpinar Bartin province, Turkey on Saturday (REUTERS)

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrived at the scene and said the body of one missing miner had finally been reached, confirming 41 were dead. Erdogan was flanked by officials, miners and rescuers, as he vowed to bring an end to mining disasters, while saying he believes in "fate."

"We don't want to see deficiencies or unnecessary risks," Erdogan said, and added that an investigation would reveal if anyone is responsible for the blast. He then joined funeral prayers for Rahman Ozcelik, 22, at a village where Turkish media said three other miners were also being mourned.

Eleven were injured and hospitalized, with five in serious condition, while 58 others managed to get out of the mine on their own or were rescued unharmed.

Energy Minister Fatih Donmez said rescue efforts were complete. Earlier, he had said that a fire was burning in an area where more than a dozen miners had been trapped.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan meets miners at the scene of the deadly explosion
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan meets miners at the scene of the deadly explosion (Press Office of the Presidency o)

Preliminary assessments indicated that the explosion was likely caused by firedamp, which is a reference to flammable gases found in coal mines, Donmez said overnight. Three prosecutors were investigating the blast.

A miner who works the day shift said he saw the news and hurried to the site to help with the rescue.

"We saw a frightful scene, it cannot be described, it's very sad," said Celal Kara, 40. "They're all my friends ... they all had dreams.”

Funeral for coal mine explosion victim Selcuk Ayvaz in Ugurlar near Amasra, Bartin province
Funeral for coal mine explosion victim Selcuk Ayvaz in Ugurlar near Amasra, Bartin province (REUTERS)

Turkey's worst mine disaster was in 2014, when 301 miners died after a fire erupted inside a coal mine in the town of Soma, in the west of the country. Five months later, 18 miners were killed in central Karaman province after a flood in a coal mine.

The head of DISK, a left-wing trade union, said in a statement they were "sad and angry" because deaths were preventable and the union's safety suggestions were overlooked. Even though more inspections were mandated after the Soma tragedy, DISK's leader Arzu Cerkezoglu claimed some precautions were ignored for profitability, calling Friday's explosion a "massacre."

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in