Turkish premier says mine disaster ‘part of the nature of business’

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 15 May, 2014, 9:29pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 15 May, 2014, 10:48pm

Turkey's trade unions went on strike yesterday after at least 282 people died in the nation's worst mine accident, which Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said was "part of the nature of the business".

Rescue workers, battling flames and methane gas, recovered eight more bodies from the mine in the western town of Soma. More than 70 miners may still be trapped inside the mine, officials said.

Erdogan, who visited the site to console families of the miners, compared the accident to mining tragedies stretching back to the 19th century. Turkey's major trade unions declared a walkout to protest inadequate safety measures and protesters swarmed around Erdogan's car during his visit.

Miners Union secretary general Vedat Unal said the accident amounted to an act of murder. "This can't be explained with examples from the 19th century," he said. "The state must adopt and enforce better health and safety measures."

Erdogan, who is expected to soon announce his candidacy for presidential elections in August, was forced to take refuge at a supermarket during his visit to the area on Wednesday after angry crowds called him a murderer and thief and clashed with police. Turkish newspapers printed photographs they said were of an Erdogan aide kicking a protester who was on the ground and being held by special forces police during the scuffles.

Hundreds of people yesterday attended funerals for the victims. Dozens of graves have been dug, ready to receive the bodies.

Mourners at the funerals said they spent their lives fearing something like this. "The wives of the miners kiss their husbands in the morning. When they come back, even if they are five minutes late, everyone starts calling. You never know what is going to happen," said Gulizar Donmez, 45, the daughter and wife of a miner and neighbour of one of the victims.

Bloomberg, Associated Press