(Transcript from World News Radio)
Anger has erupted across Turkey after a coal mine explosion known to have killed hundreds of people in the west of the country.
Hope is fading for hundreds of workers still trapped in the disaster in Soma, some 480-kilometres southwest of Istanbul.
Turkey’s biggest union says it will go on strike over the devastating incident.
The government and the mining industry have been accused of negligence, a claim they reject, saying such accidents happen.
Zara Zaher reports.
Turkey has declared three days of national mourning in what’s become the country’s worst-ever mining disaster.
Hundreds of miners have been killed in the explosion, believed to be caused by an electrical fault and hundreds more are still missing.
It’s been reported almost 800 workers were underground in the mine in Soma, when the blast occurred.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has travelled to the site, extending his condolences to the families of those killed.
Speaking through a translator, he told reporters all of Turkey will feel the pain of the mine disaster.
“We are a nation of 77 million people and we are going through a big, painful time. It’s a very painful and very stressful time for us. For those who want to earn a living sweating under the ground, we are really saddened with this disaster.”
Grieving relatives of the victims have called for Mr Erdogan’s resignation.
In the capital, Ankara and in Istanbul, police have used tear gas and water cannon to disperse thousands of protesters.
They’ve accused the government and mining industry of ignoring repeated warnings about mine safety.
But Prime Minister Erdogan has defended the country’s mining safety record.
Through translation….”Such mine accidents do not happen only in Turkey. It also happens in many countries such as the United States, China, France, India and Belgium. I give, for example, figures for death tolls, many people died in such coal mine accidents. Our country is in a much better position.”
An emergency officer working for an Australian mining company in Turkey says hope is slowly fading for those still unaccounted for in the explosion.
The Australian man, Goksel Alpaslan is one of more than 450 rescue workers at the scene of the accident.
He has told SBS’s Turkish program, that raging fires and toxic gases are hampering efforts by rescue workers.
But he insists the government has provided sufficient aid to help with the emergency.
“I can say it was well organised by the government and there were no other problems. The government alerted all the medical people and their equipment, ambulances etc and everything alerted, especially around the mine site and within the viscinity, near the city. There were lots of medical staff available at the mine site and I can say it was more than enough actually.”
The Turkish government has promised a thorough investigation into the incident.