BBC News – Turkish mine disaster: Unions call protest strike

Relatives mourn their trapped loved ones on May 14, 2014 in Soma, Turkey

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Trade unions in Turkey have announced a one-day strike in protest at the country’s worst ever mine disaster, which has claimed at least 282 lives.

Union officials said the recent privatisation of the mining sector had made working conditions more dangerous.

President Abdullah Gul is expected to visit the scene of the disaster, as Turkey begins three days of mourning.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was booed and jostled by angry protesters during his visit to Soma on Wednesday.

Anger also erupted against the government in several cities around the country.

An explosion caused the pit to collapse on Tuesday, while 787 miners were underground.

Government officials said 363 miners were rescued in the hours after the explosion, but no survivors have been brought out since dawn on Wednesday.

Turkish woman

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Relatives of the missing are struggling to cope, as Orla Guerin reports

Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said eight more bodies had been recovered overnight into Thursday, taking the toll from 274 to 282. Around 150 miners remain missing.

Rescue operations had to be halted for several hours as high gas concentrations underground needed to be cleared, and Mr Yildiz said a fire in the mine was still hampering recovery efforts.

The head of the Confederation of Revolutionary Trade Unions of Turkey told journalists that several major groups of unions had agreed to the strike.

Arzu Cerkezoglu also called on citizens to wear black and march on the Ministry of Labour.

“Those who pursue privatisation… policies, who threaten workers’ lives to reduce cost… are the culprits of the Soma massacre and they must be held accountable,” said a statement by another group, the Public Workers Unions Confederation.

Map: Turkey mine disaster
Rescuers carry out the body of a miner in Soma on 15 May 2014A further eight bodies were recovered by rescuers overnight
Relatives of the miners in Soma on 15 May 2014Hopes are fading for any more survivors
Checking the names of survivors in Soma on 15 May 2014The names of the survivors are posted on this board

The Soma mine was privatised in 2005.

An MP from Turkey’s opposition CHP party has accused the government of rejecting a recent proposal for a parliamentary inquiry into mine accidents in the area.

Start Quote

After 30 people died in a mining disaster in 2010, Prime Minister Erdogan said: ‘Unfortunately, this profession has this in its destiny.’”

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However, Reuters news agency quoted the Labour Ministry as saying its officials carried out regular inspections at the mine, most recently in March.

The disaster sparked angry protests on Wednesday in Soma, where people kicked Mr Erdogan’s car and called for his resignation after he gave a news conference on the disaster.

He was booed as he emerged from his car. Some arrests were made amid the scuffles and pictures showed the prime minister, surrounded by bodyguards, seeking refuge in a shop. Protesters also attacked the town’s ruling AK party offices.

Meanwhile police in the capital, Ankara, fired tear gas and water cannon at about 800 protesters who tried to march from a university to the energy ministry.

In Istanbul police used water cannon to disperse protesters in the main shopping street Istiklal.

Riot police firebombed in Ankara - 14 MayProtests broke out around Turkey on Wednesday amid anger over the disaster
Damaged local office of Erdogan's Justice and Development Party in Soma, Turkey, on 14 May 2014The Soma office of Prime Minister Erdogan’s AK party was damaged by protesters

Mr Erdogan has faced criticism on social media for being insensitive, after he cited numerous mining accidents throughout the world, including in Britain in the 19th Century, in defending the Turkish government’s record.

He said every effort would be made to find the missing miners, and promised a full investigation.

The BBC’s James Reynolds in Soma says Mr Erdogan will see this tragedy as a test of his reputation, and he will be aware that the previous government lost an election after being seen to have mishandled the 1999 earthquake.

How it happened

  • Electrical fault triggers blast
  • Explosion leads to power cut, disabling mine cages
  • Carbon monoxide sweeps through mine’s tunnels and galleries
  • Fire still burning

Electrical fault

An electrical fault triggered the blast soon after midday on Tuesday, and the resulting power cut made the mine cages unusable.

The miners were reportedly 2km (1.2 miles) below the surface and 4km from the mine entrance. Many of them died of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Turkey’s worst mining disaster until now was in 1992, when 263 miners were killed near Zonguldak, on the Black Sea.

Coal mining is a major industry in the Soma area, helping to supply a nearby lignite-fired thermal power plant, but safety has long been a concern. Nearly 40% of Turkey’s electricity production depends on coal.

Are you in Soma? How have you been affected by the explosion? You can email your experiences to, using the subject line ‘Turkey’.

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15 May 2014 | 9:58 am – Source:

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