The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

By Can Merey and Shabtai Gold, McClatchy Tribune News Service

ISTANBUL — Thousands of people took to the streets of Istanbul Wednesday, demanding the resignation of the Turkish government as the number of dead rose to 274 in what is likely to become the country’s worst mining disaster.

The initially peaceful demonstrations turned ugly when police set loose water cannon and tear gas as protesters marched closer to central Istanbul’s Taksim Square. The demonstrators accused the government of murder in its handling of Tuesday’s tragedy at the Soma coal mine.

In Ankara, police used tear gas and water cannon against several hundred students who had gathered at the Energy Ministry. Protesters threw stones and Molotov cocktails at the security forces. There were smaller demonstrations in Soma led by family and friends of the victims.

A number of funerals were held, but the majority of the bodies had not been identified. Relatives and loved-ones waited into the late evening Wednesday outside a regional hospital that was serving as a morgue.

Funeral vehicles with empty coffins inside waited near the hospital for bodies.

The Confederation of Turkish Trade Unions called for workers to strike Thursday in honor of the victims.

Questions were being raised about the mine’s safety record, with local media reporting that the ruling Justice and Development Party had rejected a call by the opposition in parliament last month to review safety at the mine.

Mine operator Soma Holding said a safety test had been carried out two months ago.

In Soma, Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said hopes that rescue teams would find further survivors were fading. “It is worse than initially expected,” he said.

About 120 miners were believed to still be trapped underground, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

However, according to numbers given by the Energy Minister, the toll could exceed 400. More than 350 miners were estimated to have been rescued in the wake of the blast and subsequent fire at the coal mine, but it said 787 workers were inside at the time of the accident.

“We are moving toward the worst mining disaster in Turkey,” Yildiz was quoted as saying by the Hurriyet newspaper.

Erdogan tried to downplay the poor safety record of Turkish coal mines by comparing it to the 19th century.

“Such accidents occur regularly,” he said after visiting Soma. “If you look back into the past in England, in 1862, 204 people died in a mine. In 1866, 361 people died, and in a 1894 explosion, 290 died.”

Authorities reportedly believe the fire was caused by an electrical malfunction. Smoke continued to rise from the mine shaft late Wednesday.

Most of the deaths were the result of carbon monoxide poisoning after the fire burned off much of the oxygen in the mine.

Of those who survived, Erdogan said, 80 were being treated for injuries.

Fresh oxygen continued to be pumped into the mine shafts for any survivors, but rescue efforts were hampered by the remote location. The miners were 1 mile below the surface and 2 1/2 miles from an exit when the blast occurred.

Turkey has a history of deadly mining accidents. In 1992, one such accident near the Black Sea killed 263 people.

AFP Photo/ Bulent Kilic


Start your day with National Memo Newsletter

Know first.

The opinions that matter. Delivered to your inbox every morning

President Joe Biden

The price of gasoline is not Joe Biden's fault, nor did it break records. Adjusted for inflation, it was higher in 2008 when Republican George W. Bush was president. And that wasn't Bush's fault, either.

We don't have to like today's inflation, but that problem, too, is not Biden's doing. Republicans are nonetheless hot to pin the rap on him. Rising prices, mostly tied to oil, have numerous causes. There would be greater supply of oil and gas, they say, if Biden were more open to approving pipelines and more drilling on public land.

Keep reading... Show less
Youtube Screenshot

Heat deaths in the U.S. peak in July and August, and as that period kicks off, a new report from Public Citizen highlights heat as a major workplace safety issue. With basically every year breaking heat records thanks to climate change, this is only going to get worse without significant action to protect workers from injury and death.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration admits that government data on heat-related injury, illness, and death on the job are “likely vast underestimates.” Those vast underestimates are “about 3,400 workplace heat-related injuries and illnesses requiring days away from work per year from 2011 to 2020” and an average of 40 fatalities a year. Looking deeper, Public Citizen found, “An analysis of more than 11 million workers’ compensation injury reports in California from 2001 through 2018 found that working on days with hotter temperatures likely caused about 20,000 injuries and illnesses per year in that state, alone—an extraordinary 300 times the annual number injuries and illnesses that California OSHA (Cal/OSHA) attributes to heat.”

Keep reading... Show less
{{ }}