Outrage in Turkey as Erdoğan Called 'Murderer' and 'Thief' at Site of Mine Disaster

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Common Dreams

Outrage in Turkey as Erdoğan Called 'Murderer' and 'Thief' at Site of Mine Disaster

Hundreds dead in Turkey after coal mine explosion; Family members and others blame ruling government for refusing requests to improve safety

Protesters attack the offices of Erdoğan's party in Soma, Turkey, near the site of the mine explosion. (Photograph: Emrah Gurel/AP)

Update (2:33 PM EST): Turkey mine disaster: grief turns to rage as hopes of finding survivors fade

Following a coal disaster that has claimed the lives of hundreds of Turkish miners, Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan travelled to the city of Soma to lend his support to the rescue effort, but his arrival was met with scorn by many in the region who blame the policies of his government for the loss of life.

As The Guardian reports:

Erdoğan, cancelled other engagements and went to the scene of the disaster, pledging the fullest investigation of the causes of the accident. But he was confronted by angry locals who mobbed and kicked his car, shouting "murderer!" and "thief!"

Locals complained about haphazard practices at the mine, whose owners are linked to Erdoğan's governing Justice and Development party (AKP), and skirmishes broke out between youths and police outside the local AKP office.Tensions were high as hundreds of relatives and miners gathered outside the mine, waiting for news. Women wailed in grief as others shouted angrily at local authorites, and riot police with gas masks and water cannon stood by.

Officials said there were still about 120 workers trapped in the mine hours after the last survivors emerged.

Ealier:

An explosion at a coal mine in Turkey has left more than two hundred dead with hundreds more reportedly still trapped.

Located in the city of Soma, which is about 150 miles south of Istanbul, the mine explosion occurred late Tuesday.

As morning arrived, Turkey's Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said records show that 787 people were inside the coal mine at the time of the explosion and that only 363 of them had been rescued as of early Wednesday. The official death toll was 236 people, but that number is expected to rise.

"Regarding the rescue operation, I can say that our hopes are diminishing," Yildiz said. Though more than 400 people were involved in the rescue operation, due to the high levels of carbon monoxide and dwindling supplies of fresh air in the mine, "Time is working against us," he said.

Mining accidents are common in Turkey, but if the number of those killed continues to rise this could be the nation's worst mining disaster in history. In 1992, 263 gas field workers and miners were killed in an explosion in near the port of Zonguldak on the Black Sea.

Critics of the ruling government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan say that his coalition is at least partly to blame for pushing the increased the privatization of the mining sector and refusing to conduct safety inquiries demanded by opposition parties. According to The Guardian:

Miners' representatives said that accidents such as the latest one would increase due to privatisations, the increasing employment of subcontractors and a lack of strong unions, all of which they said had led to massive pressure on workers to produce as much as possible for as little cost as possible.

"And because of weak unions it is impossible to counter this pressure," said Tayfun Görgün, the head of one of the mining unions.

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