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Three charged with manslaughter over disaster that killed 301 miners

The detained include mining executives, and the action comes after 301 miners died in the incident.

A Turkish miner at the entrance of the coal mine in Soma, Turkey
A Turkish miner at the entrance of the coal mine in Soma, Turkey
Image: AP/Press Association Images

Updated 9.24pm

A TURKISH COURT has charged three people with manslaughter over a mine disaster that killed 301 people, the prosecutor in charge of the probe said.

“Twenty-five people have been taken, detained and three of them have been charged with manslaughter,” prosecutor Bekir Sahiner told reporters in the western town of Soma where the country’s worst ever mining disaster took place.

Detained

Earlier today, Turkish police detained 24 people, including mining executives, suspected of negligence over the disaster that killed 301 people and sparked fury at the government and officials, local media reported.

Rescue operations ended yesterday after the bodies of the last two trapped miners were retrieved following the disaster.

The investigation begins

Dozens of prosecutors have been assigned to investigate the fire and explosion believed to have been sparked by an electrical fault at a private mine.

Among those detained is Akin Celik, general director of mine operator Soma Komur, NTV television reported. The suspects could face charges including manslaughter, it added.

Soma Komur has vehemently denied any negligence.

“We have all worked very hard. I have not seen such an incident in 20 years,” Celik said on Friday.

The labour ministry also denied culpability, saying the mine had been inspected every six months.

Expert report

A preliminary expert report on the accident obtained by the Milliyet newspaper pointed to several safety violations in the mine, including a shortage of carbon monoxide detectors and ceilings made of wood instead of metal.

The authenticity of the report could not be immediately verified.

A group of rescue workers told NTV that a cave-in had occurred in the mine after the ceilings burnt down and collapsed due to the fire.

Fury against the government

The Soma disaster has sparked a wave of fury against the government, adding to pressure on Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan ahead of his expected run for the presidency in August.

Soma was in a virtual lockdown today after checkpoints were set up on the main roads leading to the town where all demonstrations were banned, AFP reporters on the scene said.

Only inspectors and security forces were allowed at the site of the disaster after the rescue teams had left.

Arrests yesterday

On Saturday, at least 36 people, including eight lawyers, were arrested and held in a stadium in Soma after they attempted to make a statement. Some of the lawyers were beaten and injured by police.

Images of police firing tear gas and water cannon at thousands of protesters in Ankara, Istanbul and Izmir have also revived memories of the government’s heavy-handed crackdown against nationwide protests in 2013.

A total of 787 people were inside the mine when the blast hit, Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said. Most of the victims died of carbon monoxide poisoning.

“I was very sad when I came here and I am still very sad,” Yildiz told reporters before leaving Soma, pledging support for the stricken families.

The disaster has added to the huge political pressure on Erdogan, whose Islamic-rooted party emerged triumphant from March 30 local elections despite a corruption scandal implicating key allies and last year’s mass protests.

- © AFP, 2014

- First published 4.45pm

Read: Final death toll in Turkey mining disaster stands at 301>

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