Turkish mine disaster survivor blames company

This video, recorded in Turkey, says about itself:

Aide to Turkish Prime Minister pictured kicking Soma mine disaster mourner

15 May 2014

Photographs show the moment one of the Turkish Prime Minister’s advisors appears to furiously kick a protestor, in the aftermath of a mine disaster. The photographs were spread worldwide through social media, one day after hundreds of workers were killed in a mine in Soma. The Prime Minister’s office was not immediately available to comment after his close advisor, Yusuf Yerkel, was captured kicking the man, as special forces police detained him during a protest.

Today rescuers have still been trying to reach parts of the coal mine almost 48 hours after a fire knocked out power and shut down ventilation shafts and elevators, trapping hundreds underground. Trouble has flared on the country’s streets as grief turned to anger in the wake of the accident. At least 282 people have been confirmed dead and hopes are fading of pulling out any more alive of the 100 or so still thought to be inside. Report by Claire Lomas.

From Associated Press:

Turkish miner who survived says company to blame


May 17, 2014 9:02 AM EDT

SAVASTEPE, Turkey — Miner Erdal Bicak believes he knows why so many of his colleagues died in Turkey’s worst mining disaster: company negligence.

And he knows one other thing — he’s never going back down any mine again.

Bicak, 24, had just ended his shift Tuesday and was making his way to the surface when managers ordered him to retreat because of a problem in the Soma coal mine in western Turkey. Workers gathered in one area to hastily put on gas masks.

“The company is guilty,” Bicak told The Associated Press, 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 miner also said government safety inspectors never visited the lower reaches of the Soma mine and have no idea of how bad conditions get as workers trudge deeper underground.

Government and mining officials have insisted, however, that the disaster that killed 301 workers was not due to negligence and the mine was inspected regularly. Akin Celik, the Soma mine’s operations manager, has said thick smoke from the underground fire killed many miners who had no gas masks. High levels of carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide have also been a problem for rescue workers as well.

Bicak, whose leg was badly injured and in a cast, recounted his miraculous escape late Friday while at a candle-lit vigil for Soma victims in the town square of nearby Savastepe.

Public anger has surged in the wake of the Soma coal mine inferno. Police used tear gas and water cannon Friday to disperse protesters in Soma who were demanding that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan‘s government resign. In Istanbul, police broke up a crowd who lit candles to honor the Soma victims.

On Saturday, police increased security in Soma to prevent new protests and detained lawyers who scuffled with police after objecting to identity checks, NTV television reported. The lawyers came to offer legal advice to the victims.

Bicak said he ended up about a kilometer (.6 miles) underground with 150 people Tuesday afternoon when he heard an explosion. He said they were given old oxygen masks that he thought hadn’t been checked in many years.

Bicak and a close friend tried to make their way to an exit, but the smoke was thick. The path was narrow and steep, with ceilings so low the miners couldn’t stand up, making it difficult to leave quickly. He and his friend took turns slapping each other to stay conscious.

“I told my friend ‘I can’t go on. Leave me here. I’m going to die,'” Bicak said. But his friend said to him, “‘No, we’re getting out of here.'”

Bicak eventually made it out of the mine with his friend — by then lapsing in and out of consciousness. He said he lost many friends and out of the 150 miners he was working with, only 15 made it out alive.

The Milliyet newspaper said Saturday it saw a preliminary report by a mine safety expert who went into the Soma mine that suggested smoldering coal caused the mine’s roof to collapse. The report said the tunnel’s support beams were made of wood, not metal, and there were not enough carbon monoxide sensors.

Bicak said the last inspection at the Soma mine was six months ago. He said mine managers know that government inspectors only visit the top 100 meters (yards) of the mine, so they just clean up that part and the inspectors never see the narrow, steep, cramped sections below.

Mine owners are tipped off up to a week before an inspection anyway, said Ozgur Ozel, an opposition lawmaker from the Soma region who has criticized the government for not adopting the International Labor Organization‘s convention on mine safety.

Bicak says his mining career is now over.

“I’m not going to be a miner anymore. God gave me a chance and now I’m done,” he said.


Suzan Fraser contributed from Ankara.

See also here.

The owner of the Turkish mine where an explosion has killed at least 284 people launched a desperate damage limitation exercise yesterday. Soma Holding claimed it was in no way at fault for the disaster: here.

Turkish mine explosion: 2010 report warned dangerous conditions could produce “disaster”: here.

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10 thoughts on “Turkish mine disaster survivor blames company

  1. Pingback: Turkish regime violence against mine disaster mourners | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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  4. Pingback: Turkish Prime Minister’s violent aide Yerkel sacked at last | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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