In Turkey, grief-stricken family members and friends wait outside hospital entrances in the hopes of seeing their loved ones come out alive. A coal mine near Soma, a town in Western Turkey, exploded into flame on Tuesday during a shift change, leaving 245 workers dead. About 120 workers are thought to still be trapped in the carbon monoxide-filled tunnels of what threatens to become the country’s worst mining disaster ever.
The explosion appears to have been triggered by a malfunctioning electrical power transformer that was knocked out during a shift change. There were 787 workers in the mine at the time; 93 people have been rescued, with 85 treated for injuries.
“We, as a nation of 77 million, are experiencing a very great pain,” prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told reporters after visiting the site. Erdoğan became defensive when asked whether ample safety measures were instituted before the fire. “Explosions like this in mines happen all the time. It’s not like these don’t happen elsewhere in the world,” the far-right social conservative politician said. Opponents of Erdoğan’s government have repeatedly blamed him for ignoring warnings about the safety of the country’s mines.
Energy minister Taner Yildiz said “We fear the number [of workers trapped inside the mine] could rise even further, because those who came to help out may be among the injured and affected by the smoke. God will offer urgent remedy and care [to those injured]”.
Flags are flying at half staff for now, and police and rescue workers are working to find the 120 workers still stuck in the mine. Our condolences to the families of the fallen.