TODAY’S – Nationwide protests, strikes held for miners killed in Soma mine blast

Nationwide protests, strikes held for miners killed in Soma mine blastA recent explosion in a coal mine in the western province of Manisa that left at least 282 dead and hundreds of miners trapped underground on Wednesday has sparked widespread public anger in Turkey as various demonstrations, strikes and commemorations are being held across the country.At least 282 workers at a coal mine in the district of Soma were killed in a disaster that followed an explosion and fire at a power distribution unit on Tuesday. Most deaths were caused by carbon monoxide poisoning. Some 150 others are believed to still be trapped deep underground in smoldering tunnels filled with toxic gases, and hopes are fading to save them. The incident is the worst such disaster in Turkish history.As rescuers pulled dead bodies from the site and hopes dimmed for another 100 workers still believed to be trapped inside, anger swept across the country.Furious residents broke windows at the local government offices in Soma on Wednesday, heckled Prime Minister Recep Tayyip ErdoIan when he visited the site and jostled his entourage. Pockets of protests erupted in Istanbul and the capital Ankara.Miners in Zonguldak held a commemoration ceremony for miners killed in the Soma mine blast on Tuesday. Members of civil society organizations, representatives of political parties and university students were also in attendance. The group, consisting of 2,000 persons, shouted the slogans “We don’t want to die” and “No to subcontractors.” The group also stood in silent homage for the killed miners.Speaking during the ceremony, General Mine Workers’ Union (GMIS) Vice President SatIlmII UludaI said the incident in Soma might have been prevented, noting that there was a chain of negligence in the incident. “From the employer of the miners to top state officials, everybody has some responsibility for this incident From here, we want to once again protest the practice of subcontracting and privatization in the mining sector.”Turkish unions call national strike after mine blastFour Turkish labor unions — the Confederation of Revolutionary Workers’ Unions (DISK), the Confederation of Public Sector Trade Unions (KESK), the Turkish Union of Engineers and Architects Chambers (TMMOB) and the Union of Doctors (TTB) — called for a national one-day strike on Thursday in protest of the country’s worst industrial disaster in which at least 282 people were killed in a coal mine in western Turkey.Representing workers in a range of industries, the unions are furious over what they say are poor safety standards since the formerly state-run mine in Soma was leased to a private firm.”Hundreds of our worker brothers in Soma have been left to die from the very start by being forced to work in brutal production processes in order to achieve maximum profits,” a statement from the unions said. “We call on the working class, laborers and friends of laborers to stand up for our brothers in Soma,” it said, urging people to wear black.Holding a demonstration in Istanbul’s Gayrettepe neighborhood on Thursday, the members of the four unions, who were carrying banners reading “Not an accident or fate, but murder. Our hearts are also burning in Soma,” attempted to march toward the Social Security Institution (SGK) headquarters in FIndIklI. However, they were blocked by police. The group then held a sit-in protest in front of police water cannons blocking their way.In Kocaeli province, workers of 100 factories held a one-day work stoppage on Thursday to express their grief for the miners killed in Soma.Nearly 130 subcontracted miners, who gathered in front of the New eltek Coal Enterprises in Yozgat’s Sorgun district, also attended the nationwide one-day work stoppage on Thursday. A representative of those miners, Kerim BaIIran, called on the government to take necessary precautions to prevent the deaths of any other miner in job accidents in the country.Workers and workers’ unions in Bursa province also launched a one-day work stoppage on Thursday. The workers and unions held a protest during which they expressed their reactions to the fatal Soma incident.Mining and energy workers, and members of various civil society organizations and workers’ unions held a protest on Thursday in the western province of MuIla during which they shouted slogans such as “Government resign,” “It was not a job accident it was a job murder” and “Everywhere is Soma and everywhere is resistance.” The group, who placed a black wreath in front of the provincial office of the Labor and Social Security Ministry in MuIla, also staged a sit-in protest in front of the office.Members of the Confederation of United Public Workers’ Unions held a protest at Cumhuriyet Square in Antalya and placed a black wreath in front of the Ataturk monument for Soma’s killed miners. After they stood in silence for the miners who died, the protesters called on the government to resign.Hundreds of demonstrators held various protests in the Thracian cities of Edirne, TekirdaI and KIrklareli on Thursday. The protesters called on the government to resign.The rescue operation was hampered late on Wednesday as the fire inside the mine continued, making it extremely hazardous for the rescue crew to retrieve bodies. Energy Minister Taner YIldIz said the ventilation systems which pumped fresh air into the mine had been relocated and that the teams were getting ready to go back inside. But more than 40 hours have passed since the fire knocked out power and shut down the ventilation shafts and elevators, and both government officials and rescue workers see little chance of more survivors coming out alive.The nation’s previous worst accident was in 1992 when a gas blast killed 263 workers in the Black Sea province of Zonguldak.

SOURCE: Today Zaman

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