Turks heckle Erdogan after mining disaster
Updated: 2014-05-15 10:27
People carry the coffin of a miner who died in a fire at a coal mine during his funeral at a cemetery in Soma, a district in Turkey's western province of Manisa May 14, 2014. [Photo/Agencies]
The disaster highlighted Turkey's poor record on worker safety and drew renewed opposition calls for an inquiry into a drop in safety standards at previously state-run mines. The International Labour Organization ranked the EU candidate nation third worst in the world for worker deaths in 2012.
A pall of smoke hung above the area of the mine and Yildiz said the fire was still burning underground, hampering the rescue operation, which was halted for several hours as the evening wore on to allow exhausted rescuers to recover.
Turkey's disaster management agency AFAD said in an email 85 people had been treated for their injuries.
Freezer trucks and a cold storage warehouse usually used for food served as makeshift morgues as hospital facilities overflowed. Medical staff intermittently emerged from the hospital to read the names of survivors being treated inside, with families and fellow workers clamouring for information.
"This isn't a huge city. Everyone has neighbours, relatives or friends injured, dead or still trapped. I am trying to prepare my family for the worst," said Hasan Dogan, 27, watching TV news reports from a canteen set up outside the hospital.
Some 16,000 people from a population of 105,000 in the district of Soma work in the mining industry, according to Erkan Akcay, a local opposition politician. The district is no stranger to tragedies, but never before on this scale.
The words "For those who give a life for a handful of coal" are engraved on the entrance wall to the emergency clinic.
Teams of psychiatrists were being pulled together to counsel the families of victims. Paramilitary police guarded the entrance to the mine to keep distressed relatives at a safe distance, as residents offered soup, water and bread.
"They haven't brought any ambulances in such a long time that we've started to lose hope," said Hatice Ersoy, 43, a woman in a headscarf sitting on a pavement outside the hospital.