Europe

Turkey ends Soma mine disaster rescue, death toll 301

  • 17 May 2014
  • From the section Europe

Turkey has called a halt to the Soma mine rescue operation after two more bodies were found, raising the death toll to 301.

The bodies of all miners trapped after the mine collapsed are now thought to be recovered.

Protesters have clashed with police near Soma. Correspondents say more than 30 people, including several lawyers, have been arrested.

Demonstrations were held elsewhere over Turkey's worst-ever mine disaster.

Hundreds of people marched through the western city of Izmir and there were protests in Istanbul and the capital, Ankara.

'Social support'

"The rescue operation was carried out to completion. There are no miners left underground," Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said on Saturday.

"Until today we had focused on search and rescue efforts. Now we will be focusing on investigations, on what will happen about production."

"We won't be leaving (Soma) because the search efforts are ending,'' Mr Yildiz, said, according to Associated Press. "`There will be psychological and social support.''

The local authorities have banned demonstrations in the Soma town centre. On Friday riot police used rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannon when a protest briefly turned violent there.

Image caption Protesters clashed with riot police in Soma and several people have been arrested
Image caption Protesters in Izmir held a banner in memory of the Soma victims
Image caption More miners were buried on Saturday after their bodies were recovered

Police have reportedly been stopping coach-loads of protesters from entering Soma and several lawyers linked to Turkey's opposition movement have been arrested.

Tuesday's disaster occurred when an explosion sent carbon monoxide gas into the mine's tunnels while 787 miners were underground.

Mine operator Soma Holding has denied any negligence. A representative said an unexplained build-up of heat in the mine appeared to have caused the collapse.

However, Sengiz Shahan, who used to work at the mine, told the BBC that he and his colleagues were too afraid to complain about bad safety standards.

Image caption Lawyers who went to Soma to assist the victims' families were detained by Turkish police
Image caption Turkey's energy minister said the final two bodies from the mine had been recovered

There have been several anti-government protests across the country over the last four days.

Correspondents say people across Turkey are travelling to Soma to offer condolences, but the governor has banned all gatherings and checkpoints have been set up.

Some trade unions have called for another protest on Saturday night.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been criticised for appearing insensitive in his reaction to the disaster.

Both Mr Erdogan and his aide Yusuf Yerkel have come under fire after photos that appeared to show them assaulting protesters were published in Turkish media.

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