Soma mine disaster
This article may be confusing or unclear to readers. (May 2019)
|Date||13 May 2014|
|Location||Eynez coal mine, Soma, Manisa, Turkey|
|Cause||Explosion and fire|
|Outcome||301 dead, 486 survivors, 18 arrested.|
On 13 May 2014, an explosion at Eynez coal mine in Soma, Manisa, Turkey, caused an underground mine fire, which burned until 15 May. In total, 301 people were killed in what was the worst mine disaster in Turkey's history. The mine, operated by coal producer Soma Kömür İşletmeleri A.Ş., suffered an explosion, the cause of which is still under investigation. The fire occurred at the mine's shift change, and 787 workers were underground at the time of the explosion. After the final bodies were pulled from the mine on 17 May 2014, four days after the fire, the Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Taner Yıldız confirmed the number of dead was 301. Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD) announced the names of 301 workers who died in the mine disaster and 486 people who survived but some politicians claimed that the number of dead is more than 340.
Miners protested against dangerous mining conditions in late 2013 and the demand by the main opposition party, the Republican People's Party, to investigate the mine's safety was rejected in the Grand National Assembly of Turkey with votes from the ruling Justice and Development Party only weeks before the disaster.
Mining accidents are common in Turkey, which has poor mine-safety conditions. According to a report issued in 2010 by the Turkish Economy Policies Research Foundation (TEPAV), in 2008, deaths per 1 million tons of coal mined were 7.22 in Turkey (the highest figure in the world), 5 times the rate in China (1.27) and 361 times the rate in the US (0.02). Official statistics record that more than 3,000 coal miners died in mining accidents from 1941 to April 2014. 78 miners were killed in accidents in 2012, and 95 died in 2013. Prior to the Soma disaster, the deadliest accident in recent Turkish mining history was an explosion which killed 263 people in 1992.
The mine, formerly a state-owned company, had been privatized in 2005. In 2012 Alp Gürkan, CEO of Soma Holding, indicated that since privatization the cost of producing coal had decreased from about $140 to $24 per ton.
Explosion and fire
The fire was started by an explosion that occurred 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) below the surface; the explosion caused the mine's elevator to stop working. The explosion killed 301 workers, injured another 80, and trapped nearly 600 workers in the mine, causing most of the victims to die of carbon monoxide poisoning. Because the explosion took place close to shift change, the exact number of employees underground at the time was initially uncertain. Hürriyet first declared a young-looking mine worker among the dead to be 15 years old and working illegally, though this claim has been dismissed by the person's family.
Rescue crews arrived at the mine soon after the explosion and provided fresh air to the mine workings in an effort to keep those workers still trapped underground alive. Four mine rescue teams were deployed underground to look for trapped miners; however, thick smoke initially hindered progress in the operations to rescue more workers from the mine.
- The Turkish government announced three days of national mourning for the Soma coal mining victims.
- Presidency of Religious Affairs announces that prayer will be held for Soma on following Friday in all mosques in Turkey.
- Youth week activities scheduled to take place on 19 May at the festival was canceled by Ministry of Youth and Sports.
- The Turkish Football Federation (TFF) announces that competitions in all amateur and professional leagues scheduled to play on 14 and 15 May have been postponed to a later date.
- Soma Kömür İşletmeleri A.Ş., the mine owner, replaced its website with a black page, a message of condolences for those affected by the fire.
- Regarding the mining disaster, investigation was initiated by the Office of the Prosecutor in Manisa.
- Around 800 protesters hurled stones at the police and shouted anti-government slogans as they tried to march from Middle East Technical University (METU) to the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources building in Ankara. Hundreds of demonstrators also gathered outside the headquarters of the company which owns the mine, Soma Holding, in Istanbul. Some had sprayed "Murderers" on the walls. During protests in Soma, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan appeared to push a man while PM Erdoğan's aide Yusuf Yerkel was seen kicking a protester lying on the ground. Yerkel later took a sick leave with soft tissue trauma in his right leg.
- Hundreds of family members in the town of Soma, Manisa (15 kilometres (9.3 mi) from the mine) surrounded and attacked Prime Minister Erdoğan's car after he stated the mine deaths were "normal". Afterwards they chased him through the city, at which point he had to flee to a shop, while rocks were thrown and people shouted "murderer" and "thief."
- KESK, one of the principal trade union confederations in Turkey, called for a one-day general strike for Thursday, 15 May, citing privatisation as the cause of the disaster.
- Thousands of protestors also gathered in Artvin, Bursa, Edirne, Eskişehir, Giresun, İzmir, Kırklareli, Kocaeli, Muğla, and Tekirdağ. All of the protests have been repelled by police teams with tear gas and water cannons.
- The Anadolu news agency reported that four persons have been arrested, including the Soma Coal Mining Company's operating manager Akin Celik. Twenty-five people were also detained and questioned.
- Armenia – Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan offered condolences to the president of Turkey Abdullah Gul, the victims' families and wished quick recovery to the injured miners.
- Azerbaijan – Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev expressed his condolences to the Turkish people and announced one day of national mourning over the tragedy.
- Egypt – Egyptian President Adly Mansour mourned the hundreds killed in the accident and offered condolences to President Abdullah Gul and the people of Turkey as well as the families of the victims, according to a presidential statement. In another statement, Egypt's foreign ministry offered condolences for the deaths. "We express our sincerest condolences to the sister state of Turkey, its friendly people and the families of the victims," Egyptian FM spokesman Badr Abdel-Ati said in the statement.
- Greece – Greek Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos contacted his counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu to express the "deep condolences of Greek people at the tragic mine disaster," a Greek Foreign Ministry statement said. In addition, the Greek official expressed his country's readiness to offer any aid to the ongoing rescue operations to free workers still trapped in the mine.
- Holy See – Pope Francis made an appeal for prayer for the miners who died in the Soma mining disaster.
- India – Indian President Pranab Mukherjee expressed condolences to Turkish President Abdullah Gül. He condoled the loss of lives in Turkey's coal mine disaster and said that India stands by the people of Turkey in this difficult hour.
- Israel – The Israeli consulate in Istanbul expressed sympathy, saying they "bow their heads in sorrow at the tragic loss of life". Israel offered Turkey any assistance as required.
- Morocco – The king of Morocco, Mohammed VI, addressed a condolence message to the Turkish president Abdullah Gül, and through him, to the Turkish nation and the families of victims.
- Northern Cyprus – The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus declared two days of national mourning over the Soma disaster.
- Pakistan – Pakistan announced one day of national mourning over the tragedy.
- Russia – Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed his condolences to those who died in the mines.
- United Kingdom – Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip expressed their condolences. British Ambassador to Turkey Richard Moore expressed his condolences.
- United States – U.S. President Barack Obama expressed his condolences, saying "We share the grief of the Turkish people". U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Francis Ricciardone and U.S. President Obama's National Security Council (NSC) also offered condolences on behalf of the American people.
- European Union – EU Enlargement Commissioner Štefan Füle and Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland issued messages to express their condolences.
Football clubs Beşiktaş, Fenerbahçe, Galatasaray and Trabzonspor from Turkey, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, and Sheffield United from England, Atlético Madrid and Barcelona from Spain, Borussia Dortmund and Schalke 04 from Germany, Porto from Portugal, and Persepolis from Iran published messages of condolence about the disaster. Beşiktaş announced that all revenue of the match to be played the following weekend would be donated to the needy in Soma. Galatasaray and Atlético Madrid played a friendly match in İzmir, as did Sheffield United and Fenerbahçe at Bramall Lane, with income donated to the victims' relatives. Fenerbahçe announced that they would offer one hundred scholarships for five years to children in Soma.
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