Turkey: Death toll in Soma mine disaster rises to 301 as last bodies retrieved

Turkey: Death toll in Soma mine disaster rises to 301 as last bodies retrieved
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The bodies of 17 more miners have been brought out overnight in Soma,Turkey.

They are believed to be the last left in the mine. It brings the total killed in Turkey’s worst ever mining tragedy to 301, Turkey’s energy minister said.

Rescue workers are now winding up their operations.

Survivors accuse managers of knowing the methane gas levels had risen but ordering miners not to leave until the shift ended and sending back those who were leaving.

“At least the officials could have warned us before,” said Erdal Bicak, one of the survivors “No-one informed us until the smoke came to where we were. If the company had let us leave early, we would have survived. When we got out of the mine, the smoke was already everywhere, and because of that the other miners could not leave.”

The disaster has triggered widespread grief across the country as well as anger at Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government.

In Savastepe in the west of Turkey, locals held a candlelit vigil. Next to the candles a poster read: “It’s neither an accident, nor fate. It’s a massacre. It’s murder. Don’t sleep Turkey. Wake up. Soma. Savastepe.”

In Istanbul there were protests broken up by police. Some residents banged pots and pans from their windows.

Critics accuse Erdogan of privatising the coalmines and giving them to politically-connected businessmen who may have skimped on safety for profit.

Private mines in Turkey have a mortality rate six times higher than publicly managed ones.

According to the College of Engineers and Architects of Turkey (TMMOB), for every million tonnes of coal mined in Turkey, 6.5 workers die, six times more than China’s figures, and 200 times higher than the United States.

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