Turkey mourns victims of tragic mine blast

MANISA (CIHAN)- Rescuers desperately raced against time to reach hundreds of miners trapped underground on Wednesday after an explosion and fire at a coal mine in western Turkey killed at least 282 workers, which might make it the deadliest mining disaster in Turkey’s history if the death toll rises further, which is expected.

Energy Minister Taner YIldIz said 787 people were inside the coal mine in Soma, some 250 kilometers south of Istanbul, at the time of the explosion and 363 of them had been rescued so far. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip ErdoIan, who flew to Soma on Wednesday, put the death toll at 282 people. However, there were at least 300 dead according to unofficial records.
Meanwhile, bodies pulled out of the mine were being delivered to grieving families inside a depot used to store melons, to make use of the cold air storage system. Four hundred clerics from nearby districts were on duty to perform funeral services.

Prime Minister ErdoIan declared three days of national mourning, ordering flags to be lowered to half-staff. He postponed a one-day visit to Albania and planned to visit the Soma mine instead. The last time national mourning was declared was on Jan. 12, 2012, the day Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) founder Rauf DenktaI died.
Eighty people were confirmed as injured, although at least 141 were injured according to unofficial reports.
Meanwhile, Amnesty International issued a statement on the Soma mine blast on Wednesday asking for an “immediate independent and impartial investigation to determine the responsibilities of state officials and of officials within the private company running the mine.”

The Human Rights Joint Platform (IHOP) also issued a statement on Wednesday expressing its condolences and asked for an independent and transparent investigation into the disaster. IHOP called for justice in Soma and for those responsible for the deadly accident to be punished.