Turkey: Angry protests after mine disaster

Issue 
Police use water cannon on protesters angry at the Soma mine explosion that has killed hundreds of workers.

Violence broke out in the mining town of Soma on May 14 when embattled Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan made an emergency visit after a huge explosion at nearby mines.

Erdogan’s attempted speech was met with shouts of “murderer” and rock throwing as police plucked people out of the crowd in an effort to maintain order.

In the capital, Ankara, police fired tear gas at up to 800 protesters, who hurled stones and petrol bombs back and shouted anti-government slogans as they tried to march to the energy ministry.

The clashes came as rescuers desperately raced against time to reach more than 200 trapped miners after an explosion and fire at a coalmine in western Turkey killed more than 240 people.

Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said 787 workers were in the coalmine in Soma at the time of the explosion on May 13 and 450 had been rescued.

Yildiz said the fire was still blazing inside the mine 18 hours after the blast and the deaths were caused by carbon monoxide poisoning.

The fire caused a power cut in the mine, rendering mine cages unusable. Workers were trapped a mile underground, two miles from the exit.

Mine company Soma Komur Isletmeleri claimed the accident occurred despite the “highest safety measures and constant controls.” But opposition politicians and the miners’ union disagreed.

The government had recently voted down a proposal for a parliamentary inquiry into a series of accidents at mines around Soma. Chairperson of the opposition Republican People's Party Faruk Logoglu said there had been repeated accidents at the mine.

The miners are organised by the Mineworkers Union of Turkey, an affiliate of the global union IndustriALL.

IndustriALL said: “This tragedy must rank as the worst mining tragedy in recent memory and is made all the more tragic by the seemingly uncaring attitude of the government and mining companies.

“It is intolerable that mine workers in Turkey are denied their basic human right to work in an environment that guarantees their safety and that, instead, they are expected to go to work to die.

“Turkey has possibly the worst safety record in terms of mining accidents and explosions in Europe and the third worst in the world.”

[Reprinted from Morning Star Online.]