Turkish Coal Mine Incident Claims More Casualties, Tension Continues

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By Daniel Joseph Cruz | May 15, 2014 12:03 PM EST

Over 245 miners and counting died in a coal mine explosion in the western town of Soma, Turkey last Wednesday. Nearly 450 miners have been rescued, according to the mining company. In the last few hours, only more dead bodies are recovered from the pit. Officials say there still remain 120 people trapped inside the coal mines, fearing if they're still alive or already dead.

Reuters
Rescuers carry a miner who sustained injuries after a mine explosion, to an ambulance in Soma, a district in Turkey's western province of Manisa May 14, 2014. Rescuers pulled more dead and injured from the coal mine in western Turkey on Wednesday more than 12 hours after an explosion, bringing the death toll to 201 in the nation's worst mining disaster for decades. Hundreds more were still believed to be trapped in the mine in Soma, around 120 km (75 miles) northeast of the Aegean coastal city of Izmir. The explosion, which triggered a fire, occurred shortly after 3 pm (1200 GMT) on Tuesday. REUTERS/ Osman Orsal (TURKEY - Tags: DISASTER)

The coal mine explosion is currently thought to be caused by faulty electrical transformers. Turkey Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that the cause of the explosion hasn't been fully verified and an investigation will be under way. But the officials' promise didn't quell the surging protests in the town, increasing the tension.

Erdogan said 80 rescued workers are already receiving treatment, while there are 19 miners already discharged from the hospital. More relatives and family members are either gathered at the mining site or at the hospital waiting for news of their loved ones. Tensions rise as hundreds of the family members wailed uncontrollably, and others just too shocked seeing rescue workers recover more dead bodies each passing hour. Policemen hold their ground in Soma Holding, headquarters of the mining company, resisting angry protesters.

Energy Minister Taner Yilditz was met with the same sentiments from the crowd and bereaving family members.  Yilditz said that carbon monoxide killed many of the miners. He spoke to reporters as he inspected the rescue operations. He said it will be very difficult to reach more men trapped deeper in to the coal mines. "Those trapped are reported to be 2 km (1.2 miles) below the surface and 4 km from the mine entrance," reported BBC.

The angry crowd expressed blame about the incident on government officials for not ensuring safety in the mining industry. Turkey already had a history of mining disasters. In 1922, a gas explosion killed 263 workers in Black Sea port of Zonguldak.

Coal is vital to Turkey's economy, but productivity has been recently prioritised over safety. Turkey has seen a rapid economic growth in coal mining over the past decade. This led to a construction boom and a huge need for more workers, which sacrificed safety standards just to keep up with energy demands.

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(Photo: Reuters / )
Rescuers carry a miner who sustained injuries after a mine explosion, to an ambulance in Soma, a district in Turkey's western province of Manisa May 14, 2014. Rescuers pulled more dead and injured from the coal mine in western Turkey on Wednesday more than 12 hours after an explosion, bringing the death toll to 201 in the nation's worst mining disaster for decades. Hundreds more were still believed to be trapped in the mine in Soma, around 120 km (75 miles) northeast of the Aegean coastal city of Izmir. The explosion, which triggered a fire, occurred shortly after 3 pm (1200 GMT) on Tuesday. REUTERS/ Osman Orsal (TURKEY - Tags: DISASTER)
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