Europe

Turkey mine disaster: Tear gas fired at Soma protesters

  • 16 May 2014
  • From the section Europe

Turkish police have fired tear gas and water cannon at thousands of protesters in the eastern town of Soma, where some 300 miners died on Tuesday.

The demonstrators in the town shouted anti-government slogans.

The protest occurred after the mine operators held a news conference to deny any negligence over the disaster.

There have been angry anti-government rallies across Turkey for the last three days over what has become the country's worst-ever mine disaster.

An explosion sent carbon monoxide gas into the mine's tunnels while 787 miners were underground.

Up to 18 are still missing. Another 363 escaped, while 122 are injured.

'Unexplained'

Several thousand demonstrators gathered in the centre of Soma on Friday, shouting: "People of Soma, show your solidarity with the miners."

They scattered into side streets as police intervened.

"We have done nothing wrong here," one woman told the BBC. "They don't even let us feel our pain."

Earlier, representatives from Soma Holding defended their response to the disaster, telling a news conference that their priority had been to save lives.

They added that an unexplained build-up of heat in the mine appeared to have caused the collapse.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Some protesters in Soma hurled stones at the police
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Relatives of the miners prayed in the cemetery in Soma on Friday
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Miners waited anxiously at the mine on Friday for news of colleagues still missing

"There is no negligence of ours in this incident," said plant manager Akin Celik.

But Sengiz Shahan, who used to worked at the mine, told the BBC that he and his fellow miners were too afraid to complain of bad safety standards.

'Insensitive'

Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said that a fire was still burning inside the mine on Friday, but it was "declining".

He said anyone negligent about safety at the mine would be punished, adding: "We won't take any notice of their tears."

Relatives of the miners who died held prayers on Friday at the cemetery in Soma where they were buried.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been criticised for being insensitive in his reaction to the disaster, by appearing to suggest that it was a fact of life.

And pictures of Mr Erdogan appearing to slap a protester in a local supermarket have been shown in the Turkish media.

His aide Yusuf Yerkel made headlines on Thursday when photos emerged of him appearing to kick a protester in Soma.

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