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Anger Mounts in Turkey as Country Mourns Mine Workers


World  (tags: 'CIVILLIBERTIES!', 'HUMANRIGHTS!', Turkey, conflict, death, government, mine collapse, politics )

Kit
- 217 days ago - america.aljazeera.com
Unions stage protest over workplace safety as excavators dig mass graves in the town of Soma.



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Kit B. (276)
Thursday May 15, 2014, 7:29 am
Photo Credit: www.nbcnews.com




Rescue teams recovered eight more victims of Turkey's worst mining accident on Thursday, raising the death toll to 282 in a disaster that has thrown Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's presidential ambitions off stride and set off a day of union action across the country.

Anger has swept across Turkey — a country that has boasted a decade of rapid economic growth under Erdogan's Islamist-rooted government but that still suffers from one of the world's worst workplace safety standards — over the diasaster at the coal mine in Soma, 155 miles south of Istanbul. Several unions, including the country's largest trade union, joined a one-day strike in the name of the mine victims.

Although 363 miners were rescued, some 150 more have not been accounted for. No miner has been brought out alive since early Wednesday. The government has said 787 people were inside the mine at the time of Tuesday's explosion. Scores of those rescued suffered injuries.

Rescuers, despite fading hopes, are still trying to reach parts of the mine to locate those still unaccounted for almost 48 hours after Tuesday's explosion and fire. Rescue operations have been suspended several times as burning coal inside created toxic fumes and too-risky conditions for the rescue teams.

"We believe that we still have brothers in two areas that we still have not been able to reach," said Energy Minister Taner Yildiz. He did not say whether authorities believed they were dead.

Hundreds of people were attending funerals for the victims and dozens of graves have been dug, ready to receive the bodies. Mourners at the funerals said they spent their lives fearing something like this.

"The wives of the miners kiss their husbands in the morning. When they come back, even if they are five minutes late, everyone starts calling. You never know what is going to happen," said Gulizar Donmez, 45, the daughter and wife of a miner and neighbor of one of the victims.

The situation in the town was “very depressing,” Al Jazeera’s Andrew Simmons said, reporting from Soma.

Even as the rescue and recovery efforts continue, Simmons reported that no one is really sure how many miners remain underneath the ground, despite an estimate of 150. Nevertheless, the death toll is likely to rise into the 300s, as funerals continue taking place across districts in Soma.


‘It’s murder’


Loudspeakers in Soma broadcast the names of the dead and excavators dug mass graves in the close-knit town Thursday, while protesters gathered in major cities as grief turned to anger.

Protests broke out in Istanbul, Ankara and other cities over the deaths and poor safety conditions at mines around the country. Turk-Is, Turkey's largest trade union confederation, representing some 800,000 workers, joined a one-day strike by other unions to demand better conditions for workers.

Workers in the mining region of Zonguldak, obeying the strike, gathered in front of a pit but did not enter it. In Istanbul, a group chanted anti-government slogans and carried a large banner that read: "It's not an accident, it's murder."

Furious residents heckled Erdogan and jostled his entourage on Wednesday, angry at what they see as the government's coziness with mining tycoons, its failure to ensure safety and a lack of information on the rescue effort.

Erdogan, who is expected to soon announce his candidacy for the presidential election in August, was forced to take refuge at a supermarket during his visit to the area Wednesday after angry crowds called him a “murderer” and “thief” and clashed with police. Turkish newspapers Cumhuriyet, Milliyet and others on Thursday printed photographs they said were of an Erdogan aide kicking a protester who was on the ground and being held by special forces police during the scuffles. The papers identified the aide as Yusuf Yerkel.

While Erdogan declared three days of national mourning and postponed a trip to Albania to visit the mine, he warned that some radical groups would try to use the disaster to discredit his government.

"Our hope is that, God willing, they will be brought out," Erdogan said of those still trapped. "That is what we are waiting for."


Yet his efforts to show compassion — discussing rescue operations with authorities, walking near the mine entrance, trying to comfort two crying women — did not go over well.

At a news conference, he tried to deflect a question about who was responsible for the disaster, saying: "These types of things in mines happen all the time.

"These are ordinary things. There is a thing in literature called 'work accident' ... It happens in other workplaces, too," Erdogan said. "It happened here. It's in its nature. It's not possible for there to be no accidents in mines. Of course we were deeply pained by the extent here."

The death toll in the Soma mine incident has topped a 1992 gas explosion that killed 263 workers near Turkey's Black Sea port of Zonguldak.

Authorities said this week's disaster followed an explosion and fire at a power distribution unit, and most deaths were caused by carbon monoxide poisoning.

Erdogan promised the tragedy would be investigated to its "smallest detail" and that "no negligence will be ignored." Hurriyet newspaper reported Thursday that a group of 15 prosecutors has been assigned to investigate the accident.

Mining accidents are common in Turkey. Tuesday's explosion tore through the mine as workers were preparing for a shift change, which likely raised the casualty toll.

Turkey's Labor and Social Security Ministry said the mine had been inspected five times since 2012, most recently in March, when no safety violations were detected. But the country's main opposition party said Erdogan's ruling party had recently voted down a proposal to hold a parliamentary inquiry into a series of small-scale accidents at the mines around Soma.
******


Al Jazeera and wire services
 

Brad H. (27)
Thursday May 15, 2014, 8:30 am
thanks
 

JL A. (276)
Thursday May 15, 2014, 4:26 pm
I cannot blame them for wanting an independent investigation like we chose in coal country not that long ago.
 

Barbara K. (75)
Thursday May 15, 2014, 5:04 pm
What a tragedy this is. I hope they can rescue more miners, but as time goes on, hope gets dimmer. I hope their investigation yields some answers. All jobs should be safety first ones, who can blame survivors and families for being angry when safety is ignored and people die because of it.
 

Stan B. (122)
Thursday May 15, 2014, 6:11 pm
Very sad news. Unfortunately in many countries, like Turkey, profit is more important than safety.
 

Kit B. (276)
Thursday May 15, 2014, 8:06 pm

Yeah, you would never see that in the US or the UK or all of the world. Profit does now and has come before safety and pay. Unions are the only protection for workers.
 

Franck R. (54)
Thursday May 15, 2014, 8:25 pm
Noted
 

Ros G. (86)
Thursday May 15, 2014, 10:15 pm
Thanks Kit have been following this tragedy.....the push for more coal....to keep the lights on.....you're right Kit...it does happen everywhere......Stan what's happening in your home State of Queensland..true we don't have this death toll.......open cuts are cheaper but the quality of the coal is downgraded....
 

Stan B. (122)
Friday May 16, 2014, 12:49 am
Ros G. A good question. Morons like Clive Palmer are allowed to make themselves very rich from resources we should all benefit from. The same thing is happening in W A.
 

Panchali Yapa (14)
Friday May 16, 2014, 1:01 am
Thank you
 

Ros G. (86)
Friday May 16, 2014, 7:25 am
Thank you Stan B...it's the voting public that are the morons..yes they are our resources..the wealth of the nation but how many realize that?????????..Agree the same thing is happening all over Australia Stan not just Qld and WA............Clive Palmer a refreshing change...a bit like Andy..we do love our Comedians.....but the joke is on you.....he controls the country now..so who's the moron now......"Good Luck.......Clive""" from another Comedy Show................
 

Ros G. (86)
Friday May 16, 2014, 7:39 am
Sorry Kit...have been trying to tell people for decades..that the wealth of a nation is in it's people and resources................never sunk in with most......then they have the hide to call others "morons"...Stan at lest you will be protected..with your elitist attitude...welcome to the top 1%...might not put food on your table........but you're up there..........
 

Dandelion G. (383)
Friday May 16, 2014, 8:03 am
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's presidential ambitions off stride....well isn't that too bad. I believe it was he who showed up at the mine and gave a most uncaring speech. It set the people's blood to boil, don't blame them.

Around the world so many lives are being lost due to lax safety conditions and the push to get more more more out there. I wish the same push was being done all over the world to get off of these dirty fuels and use clean sources.

My heart feels sorrow for the families that lost their loved ones. I took a tour of a coal mine in Nova Scotia that is now closed to use. I saw a man sitting in one of the museum rooms to answer any questions anyone might have. After looking around I did have some questions and spoke to him and it turns out he had been one of the few survivors in one of the worst coal mine disasters for that area. I bought the book on it and he signed it for me, with not only his signature but a brief historical as to who he was. Part of what he wrote stood out to me was that the owner of the mine stopped paying all miners the minute the miners were not able to work from the horrific accident. Imagine that, not one penny more would the Company pay.......your labor stopped due to death or inability, pay stopped too.
 

Kit B. (276)
Friday May 16, 2014, 8:05 am

In Turkey we can see that Ergodan and his henchmen have now abandoned any false front of pretense to be supportive of the people. One of Ergodan's minister was caught on camera kicking one of the protesters.
The power is with the people only when we all come together and use that power.
 

jess b (24)
Friday May 16, 2014, 12:13 pm
So true, Kit! thank you for posting
 

Angelika R. (144)
Friday May 16, 2014, 1:06 pm
I wonder if the now violent crack down on protesters will have an effect on the election, somehow that dictator MUST be shown he is unwanted. More and more news emerge suggesting there have been lies told and a cover up about how exactly the fire happened.
 

Angelika R. (144)
Friday May 16, 2014, 3:09 pm
If you wish to sign a petition, I posted one yesterday > http://www.care2.com/news/member/153110506/3770559
Tell the Turkish Government: Enough With Coal Tragedies! - SIGN PLEASE !
 

Ros G. (86)
Friday May 16, 2014, 4:54 pm
Thanks Angelika.........petition signed with pleasure
 

Terry H. (13)
Saturday May 17, 2014, 2:41 am
Thanks for posting
 

Michael Kirkby (86)
Saturday May 17, 2014, 6:34 am
Noted. That picture of the minister kicking the protestor being restrained says it all.
 

Franck R. (54)
Sunday May 18, 2014, 4:01 am
Thanks for Posting
 
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