Turkish Coal Mine Incident Update - Prime Minister's Advisor Hurts Protester

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By Daniel Joseph Cruz | May 19, 2014 3:55 PM EST

The latest death toll to the Turkish coal mine incident at Soma was 301, after the last two body count on Saturday morning. Energy Prime Minister Taner Yildiz concluded that the rescue efforts are halted; losing hope to find the remaining 120 miners still trapped 4 km deep in the coal mine. Amidst grief and prolonged protests, one government official was seen kicking a protester.

REUTERS/Mehmet Emin Al
A protester is kicked by Yusuf Yerkel (L), advisor to Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, as Special Forces police officers detain him during a protest against Erdogan's visit to Soma, a district in Turkey's western province of Manisa May 14, 2014. Four Turkish labour unions called for a national one-day strike on Thursday in protest against the country's worst industrial disaster that killed at least 282 people in a coal mine in western Turkey. Picture taken May 14, 2014. REUTERS/Mehmet Emin Al/

The rescue operations were halted for several hours on Thursday to let concentrations of gas deep into the mines clear out. According to the official's recent numbers, there were 787 people inside the mine before the explosion. 301 were miners were killed, 363 were evacuated, and at least 124 were still trapped deep underground.

Meanwhile, family members and relatives gathered in Kadikoy, Istanbul to mourn for the dead miners on Friday, May 16. Then Turkish rescue workers offered prayers at the site of the accident on Saturday. It is the very least the rescuers can give as the recovery efforts have already ended. Due to the explosion and the cutoff of power lines to the personnel lifts, rescue operations deemed it futile to find the remaining miners 4 km deep in the mines.

Protesters continue their dissent in Soma, in Turkey's capital Ankara, and in the hospital grounds. Protesters shout "murderer!" and "thief!" to the government for its alleged negligence of implementing safety for the coal mine industry.

Turkish media captured a slew of photos showing Turkey's Prime Minister's advisor Yusuf Yerkel kicking a protester restrained to the ground during anti-government demonstrations.  The photo caused outrage after it was shared across social media. Witnesses say that the restrained protester kicked by Yerkel is a relative to one of the dead miners, but officials have yet to confirm.

Yerkel immediately confirmed his actions via a telephone conversation with news reports. He apologised for his actions and claimed he was provoked by protesters.

"I am sorry that I was not able to keep calm despite all the provocations, insults and attacks that I was subjected to," said Yerkel, in a report from The Independent.

Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan added to the tension when he was caught in a video footage showing yelling at protesters. He allegedly said in the video, "If you boo the prime minister of this country, you get slapped," reported Mashable. The video footage has been recently removed from YouTube.

The government's response to the mining incident and protests has provoked more anger from the Turkish people. They are calling for Edrogan and other government officials to vacate their positions.

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(Photo: REUTERS/Mehmet Emin Al / )
A protester is kicked by Yusuf Yerkel (L), advisor to Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, as Special Forces police officers detain him during a protest against Erdogan's visit to Soma, a district in Turkey's western province of Manisa May 14, 2014. Four Turkish labour unions called for a national one-day strike on Thursday in protest against the country's worst industrial disaster that killed at least 282 people in a coal mine in western Turkey. Picture taken May 14, 2014. REUTERS/Mehmet Emin Al/
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