Wrath wraps Turkey after mine tragedy

Written by: IANS
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Ankara, May 15: The outrage over the death of more than 270 coal miners [Read here] in the western Turkish town of Soma sparked anti-government protests on Wednesday across the nation with crowds demanding resignation of the government.

Angry relatives of the victims booed Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and called for his resignation during his visit to Soma where some 400 rescuers have been scrambled to save trapped miners estimated to be over 100, Xinhua reported.

Protests spilled over other cities and towns where crowds gathered to express their frustration with the government over what they called lack of effective measures to curb death at workplaces.

Police shut down the access to Taksim Square's Gezi Park, centre of anti-government protests erupted a year ago. The number of police officers in Istanbul's historical square was boosted as police used water cannon and pepper gas to confront protestors.

In the Turkish capital, several protests were staged. A group of students from Middle East Technical University (ODTU) who attempted to march toward the energy and natural resources ministry to protest the death of the miners was met with police force. Police used water cannon and tear gas against the students.

Some people staged a sit-in protest in Ankara's Guven Park and nearby neighbourhoods. Protesters also staged rallies in Eskisehir province.

The fear is that death toll may further rise given that 787 people were inside the coal mine in Soma at the time of Tuesday's explosion. According to Energy Minister Taner Yildiz, 363 of them had been rescued so far.

"Regarding the rescue operation, I can say that our hopes are diminishing," Yildiz told reporters on Wednesday.

The explosion tore through the mine as workers were preparing for a shift change, officials said, which likely raised the casualty toll because there were more miners inside than usual.

Mining accidents are not uncommon in Turkey, which is plagued by poor safety conditions, which claimed lives of more than 3,000 workers since 1941. The country's worst mining disaster to date was a gas explosion that killed 263 workers in the province of Zonguldak in 1992.

With the death toll rising and little hope for over hundred still trapped inside the mine, the Soma disaster could very well top that number.


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