Some 245 coal miners were killed in a mine in the western province of Manisa’s Soma district on May 13 after a fire broke out following an explosion at a power distribution unit, Energy Minister Taner Yıldız said. Emergency teams continue their efforts to rescue workers, but hopes are diminishing for the safety of hundreds who still remain trapped in the mine.
The government declared three days of national mourning on May 14 over the mining disaster. Flags across the country are being flown at half-mast while the upcoming Youth and Sports Day celebrations on May 19 have also been reduced to just one main ceremony. President Abdullah Gül has cancelled his official visit to China and will go to Soma on May 15.
Most of the victims died due to carbon monoxide poisoning, according to officials.
“We are moving toward the worst mining disaster in Turkey,” Yıldız said on May 14, as over 300 workers are feared to be still trapped inside, according to reports.
But a high degree of uncertainty still remains regarding the exact number of workers trapped inside the mine.
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Related: Footage of Turkish PM Erdoğan’s ‘punch’ angers opposition: Both the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) have expressed regret after footage emerged apparently showing Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan engaging in a scuffle in a crowd, during his visit to the mining disaster-struck town of Soma on May 14.
“It is as if you have just discovered the prime minister,” CHP Deputy Chair Gürsel Tekin said on the same day as the footage emerged, in an apparent reference to Erdoğan’s short-temper.
Many social media users suggested that the video shows Erdoğan “punching” the protester, though it is not clear from the footage whether his fist is actually aimed at someone or whether it was just swung in protest.
Video at link.
A protester is kicked by Yusuf Yerkel, 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. REUTERS/Mehmet Emin Al/Depo Photos