Mine toll hits 282
SOMA, Turkey—Women sang improvised ballads about the departed over freshly-dug graves today even as backhoes carved row upon row of graves into the dirt and hearses lined up outside the cemetery with more victims of Turkey’s worst mining disaster.
Rescue teams recovered another eight victims, raising the death toll to 282, with some 142 people still unaccounted for, according to government figures.
Blackening his reputation further, one of Erdogan’s aides was seen kicking a protester held on the ground by police.
At a graveyard in the western town of Soma, where coal mining has been the main industry for decades, women wailed loudly in an improvised display of mourning.
They swayed and sang songs about their relatives as the bodies were taken from coffins and lowered into their graves.
Pictures of the lost relatives were pinned onto their clothing.
“The love of my life is gone,” some sang, chanting the names of dead miners.
No miner has been brought out alive since dawn yesterday from the Soma coal mine where the explosion and fire took place.
Many mourners said they spent their whole 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,” said Gulizar Donmez, 45, the daughter and wife of a miner and neighbour of one of the victims.
“You never know what is going to happen,”
Energy minister Taner Yildiz said the search for survivors had been hampered by a mine fire that had spread to a conveyor system—engulfing a 200-metre-long stretch—but progress had been made today on extinguishing it.
Rescue operations have been suspended several times as burning coal inside created toxic fumes and too-risky conditions for the rescue teams.
Emergency crews detected a drop in carbon monoxide levels, “which means that the fire has gotten smaller,” Yildiz said.
Erdogan, who is expected to soon announce his candidacy for Turkey’s presidential election in August, was not welcome during his visit to the area yestrday.
He was forced to take refuge at a supermarket after angry crowds called him a murderer and a thief, in a reference to alleged corruption, and clashed with police.
Turkish President Abdullah Gul, visiting Soma today, described the events in Soma as “a huge disaster.”
“The pain is felt by us all,” he said.