Soma mine explosion: Turkish trade unions hold one-day protest strike
Turkish trade unions are holding a one-day strike in protest at the country’s worst ever mine disaster, which has claimed at least 282 lives up to now.
Thousands have taken to the streets in cities across the country; clashes have broken out in Izmir.
President Abdullah Gul visited the scene of the disaster in Soma, as Turkey holds three days of mourning.
PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan was booed and jostled by angry protesters during his visit to Soma on Wednesday.
Several unions are reportedly taking part in the 24-hour strike, and blame the privatization of the mining sector for making working conditions more dangerous.
Some 3,000 people have begun gathering in the capital, Ankara, to march on the labor ministry. Protests have also begun in Istanbul.
It was a second day of protest, after police clashed with crowds on Wednesday.
Police fired tear gas and water cannon on some 20,000 people who took to the streets in Izmir, Turkey’s third largest city situated just 75 miles from Soma, the Hurriyet Daily News reports. A union boss in the city was said to have been hospitalized.
More than 5,000 protesters say they will stay in the city centre until some colleagues who were detained are released.
Protests continued for a second day in Istanbul and Ankara, after police used tear gas and water cannon to disperse crowds on Wednesday.
There were reports of demonstrations in Bursa, Antalya and other cities.
“Those who pursue privatization… policies, who threaten workers’ lives to reduce cost… are the culprits of the Soma massacre and they must be held accountable,” said the Public Workers Unions Confederation.
Rescue efforts continue at the mine in Soma but there is little hope of finding anyone else alive.
Eight bodies were recovered overnight, bringing the death toll to 282. Up to 150 miners remain missing.
Excavators have been digging new graves in the town’s cemetery, as hasty funerals are being held for victims.
Women cried and sang improvised songs about their relatives as the bodies were lowered into the graves.
President Abdullah Gul called on Turks to be “unified… to get over these hard times” during his visit to Soma. He was speaking after meeting injured miners in hospital and touring the scene of the disaster.
Scuffles broke out during PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s visit. People booed him and kicked his car, calling for his resignation. He was forced to seek refuge in a shop at one stage. The town’s ruling AK party offices were also attacked.
However, it was PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s aide, Yusuf Yerkel, who made headlines on Thursday when photos emerged of him appearing to kick a protester in Soma.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been criticized for being insensitive in his reaction to the disaster, after he cited numerous mining accidents throughout the world, including in Britain in the 19th Century, in defending the Turkish government’s record.
He said every effort would be made to find the missing miners, and promised a full investigation.
The Soma mine was privatised in 2005.
The government has been accused of rejecting a recent proposal for a parliamentary inquiry into mine accidents in the area, although officials say the Soma mine was subject to regular inspections, most recently in March.
An electrical fault triggered the blast soon after midday on Tuesday, while 787 miners were underground, some 1.2 miles below the surface and 4km from the mine entrance.
The resulting power cut made the mine cages unusable. Many of them died of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Government officials said 363 miners were rescued in the hours after the explosion, but no survivors have been brought out since dawn on Wednesday.
Turkey’s worst mining disaster until now was in 1992, when 263 miners were killed near Zonguldak, on the Black Sea.
Coal mining is a major industry in the Soma area, helping to supply a nearby lignite-fired thermal power plant, but safety has long been a concern. Nearly 40% of Turkey’s electricity production depends on coal.
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