Soma not natural, but technological disaster

ISTANBUL (CIHAN)- As Turkey tries to understand the reasons behind a mine blast in Soma that had claimed approximately 300 lives as of Friday, Professor Mikdat KadIoIlu, a disaster-management expert, said that the accident in Soma is not a natural disaster, but a technological one.

Turkey lags behind the developed world in disaster management, KadIoIlu said, adding that “the first thing to do is to immediately determine what is needed” in the disaster zone. What situation are the victims in? How will rescuers communicate with victims and each other? These are some of questions that need to be asked, according to KadIoIlu. Companies, especially large ones, should have an emergency plan, as they do in many countries. “We have seen in this incident that the inspections are insufficient and not based on objective criteria, which often leads to negligence,” he said, adding that contingency plans should be drawn up for a variety of situations.

In contrast, the Mine Safety and Health Administration, an agency under the US Department of Labor, assigns one inspector per four mines, and coal mines are inspected four times a year. Additional inspections can be made upon miners’ requests.

In 2010, 29 miners died in a mining accident in West Virginia. The probe into the accident took about two years, and an independent investigation found Massey Energy directly responsible for the incident. The families of the miners killed received a total of $209 million in compensation.

According to KadIoIlu, state officials’ visits to the disaster zone in Soma have hampered rescue efforts. “The first 72 hours are important in search-and-rescue efforts,” KadIoIlu said, adding that the time and energy spent on protocol is critical for those waiting to be rescued. He notes that in the developed world, only those directly involved in rescue efforts go to disaster zones.

Drawing attention to the importance of disaster drills, KadIoIlu held up Japan as an example. “In Japan, drills are conducted every October and everyone, from the top politician to children in kindergarten, participates,” KadIoIlu said. In Turkey, on the other hand, the rehearsals are merely for show, he added. “If you only make citizens participate in part of the drill, they will not be able to help each other in the event of a disaster,” KadIoIlu also noted.

A 2010 report of Turkish Union of Engineers and Architects’ Chambers (TMMOB) prepared indicates that workplace accidents stem from both negligence and poor safety regulations. The report lists ventilation problems as well as insufficient exits and protective gear as dangers in the Turkish mining sector.


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