Turkish mine company defends safety record as Soma death toll reaches 284
Associated Press in Soma, Turkey
A mining company defended its safety record yesterday, four days after at least 284 people died in an underground blaze at its coal mine in western Turkey.
Up to 18 miners remain missing and the final death toll will be around 300, the country's energy minister said.
The mining company's owner, Alp Gurkan, said he had spent his own money on improving standards at the mine. "I am hurting inside," he said at a news conference of company officials.
Turkey's worst mining disaster has set off protests against what is perceived as official laxity and corruption. "It's not an accident, it's murder," read a banner waved by trade unionists who marched through Istanbul.
Responding to the public outcry, Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said yesterday that anyone found to have been negligent about safety at the mine can expect punishment. He said: "We won't take any notice of their tears."
Ramazan Dogru, the mine's general manager, rejected initial reports that claimed the fire was caused by an explosion at a power distribution unit.
"It was caused by an undetermined spark," Dogru said. "We believe that the fire grew because there was an entry of clean air there."