Anger and grief boiled over into a violent protest Wednesday in the western Turkish town of Soma, where officials said at least 245 miners died in a coal mine explosion and fire.
Nearly 450 other miners were rescued, the mining company said, but the fate of an unknown number of others remained unclear in one of the world’s deadliest mining disasters in decades.
Tensions were high as hundreds of relatives and miners jostled outside the coal mine waiting for news, countered by a heavy police presence. Rows of women wailed uncontrollably, men knelt sobbing and others just stared in disbelief as rescue workers removed a steady stream of bodies throughout the night and early morning.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan had declared three days of national mourning and ordered flags to be lowered to half-staff after the tragedy struck Tuesday. He postponed a foreign trip to visit the mine in Soma. “Our hope is that, God willing, they will be brought out,’’ he said of those still trapped. “That is what we are waiting for.’’
Authorities say the disaster followed an explosion and fire caused by a power distribution unit and the deaths were caused by carbon monoxide poisoning. The prime minister promised the tragedy would be investigated to its “smallest detail’’ and that “no negligence will be ignored.’’
Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said 787 people were inside the coal mine at the time of Tuesday’s explosion, 245 died and scores were injured. He spoke to reporters as he oversaw rescue operations by more than 400 emergency workers.
“Regarding the rescue operation, I can say that our hopes are diminishing,’’ Yildiz said. Yildiz said some of the workers were 420 metres deep inside the mine.