Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Hundreds dead following explosion at Turkish mine.

At least 232 miners are known to have died and it is feared the death toll will rise much higher following an explosion and fire at a coal mine operated by Soma Kömür İşletmeleri A.Ş., the country's largest coal producer, at Soma in the Manisa Province of western Anatolia on Tuesday 13 May 2014. The incident is thought to have begun with an electrical fault that caused an explosion in the mine's power plant, causing ventilation systems, lights and elevators at the pit to fail, and trapping 787 workers up to 2 km below the ground and 4 km from the mine entrance. The resultant fire is believed to have ignited coal within the pit, which without good ventilation burns incompletely, forming deadly poisonous carbon monoxide gas.

An injured miner being carried from the Soma Coal Mine. Depot Photos/Associated Press.

Rescue workers have been pumping air into the mine from the surface, and about 360 workers have been evacuated from the mine, many of them with a variety of injuries, but about 200 men are still unaccounted for. It is feared that the death tole will pass that of the Zonguldak disaster in 1992, when 263 workers died in a mine close to the Black Sea coast, Turkey's worst mining incident to date.

The approximate location of the Soma Coal Mine. Google Maps.

Turkey has a large and profitable mining sector, producing a variety of metals and minerals, but a somewhat checkered record on health and safety. Within six months in 2009-2010 fifty Turkish miners died in three separate fire-related incidents, leading Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdoğan to comment that the people of the region were used to such incidents, and accepted them as fate, going on to describe protests by mining unions calling for better safety conditions as a provocation. 

This latest incident is likely to prove trying for the Erdoğan Government, with opposition leaders and union officials already highly critical of his stance on the mining sector. The opposition  Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi (Republican People's Party) has resumed criticism of Erdoğan for rejecting a proposed parliamentary inquiry into the mining sector, and a former leader of the Maden-Is miners’ union has described the incident as 'work-related murder'. 

See also...

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Seven people were killed in two separate incidents at mines in...

A Turkish miner has been killed and twenty-one more were rescued after a fire broke out at a coal mine  at Derkale in Manisa Province in western Turkey, early in the morning of Sunday 20 October 2013. It is understood that the fire was started by an...

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