On Tuesday a coal mine explosion in Soma, Turkey left 274 dead—a death toll that has been climbing throughout the day due to at least 120 miners being trapped in the fiery and smoky mine since the explosion. The explosion was followed Wednesday by an outbreak of violent protest.
“In downtown Soma, protesters mostly in their teens and 20s faced off against riot police Wednesday afternoon in front of the ruling NKP party headquarters,” Fox News reports. Protestors expressed anger toward the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Some accused Erdogan of being a murder and a thief. Rocks were hurled at police officers who chased down the protestors.
According to Fox News, “Police set up fences and stood guard around Soma state hospital to keep the crowds away from scores of injured miners.” Hundreds of protestors assembled outside the headquarters of the mining company Soma Holding, in Istanbul.
Roughly 120 miners were thought to still be trapped inside the mine as a result of the explosion. Unfortunately, the casualty toll was likely raised as a result of the blast occurring during a shift change. Workers were also allegedly unable to use lifts to escape, as the power had been cut as well. Eighteen hours after the blast, the fire was still raging inside the mine, making it impossible for rescue teams to do much besides look on in horror.
According to Energy Minister Taner Yildiz, hope for the rescue mission is diminishing and he says that the deaths were caused by carbon monoxide poisoning. “‘We fear the number could rise even further because those who came to help out may be among the injured and affected by the smoke’ Yildiz told reporters, according to AFP.”
Some 787 people were inside the mine when the explosion occurred.
According to sources, there are two pockets in the mine, “…one of which was open so rescuers were able to reach the workers. The source said the second pocket was blocked with workers trapped inside,” says Fox News.
Workers from other mines were brought in to assist with the rescue mission, and Prime Minister Erdogan declared three days of mourning with flags flown at half-staff. SOMA Komur Isletmeleri A.S., which owns the mine, claims that an investigation is being launched into the cause of the explosion, which they claim occurred despite stringent security measures.
The company issued a statement saying: “Our main priority is to get our workers out so that they may be reunited with their loved ones.”
The Labor and Social Security Ministry in Turkey allegedly reported that the mine had been expected five times since 2012 with no safety issues detected. However, mining incidents are fairly common in Turkey, with the worst before Tuesday’s being a 1992 explosion that took 263 lives.