The Norman Transcript

Nation/World

May 17, 2014

Govt. denies negligence in mine fire

SAVASTEPE, Turkey — Government and company officials denied Friday that negligence caused Turkey’s worst mining disaster, as opposition lawmakers raised questions about oversight and a survivor said safety inspectors never visited the lower reaches of the mine.

Anger continued to surge in the wake of the coal mine inferno in the western town of Soma that has killed at least 298 miners. On Friday, police used tear gas and water cannon to disperse rock-throwing protesters in Soma, where about 1,500 demonstrators urged Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government to resign.

In Istanbul, police forcefully broke up a crowd of about 150 people who lit candles and lined up mining helmets on the ground to honor the victims of the disaster, the DHA news agency reported.

Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said at least 298 people died in Tuesday’s tragedy. Another two or three people are believed to be missing underground while 485 miners escaped or were rescued.

Protesting workers have described the disaster as murder, not an accident, because of what they call flawed safety conditions at that mine and others in the country.

Erdal Bicak, 24, said he had just ended his shift Tuesday and was making his way to the surface when mine managers ordered him back down because of a problem.

“The company is guilty,” Bicak said, adding that managers had machines that measure methane gas levels. “The new gas levels had gotten too high and they didn’t tell us in time.”

The government has asked for a parliamentary inquiry into the disaster to find out what happened and why — but it appeared that officials had already made up their minds Friday.

“There’s no negligence with respect to this incident,” insisted Huseyin Celik, a deputy leader of the ruling party. He said the mine in Soma “was inspected vigorously 11 times since 2009.”

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