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Crowds boo at Erdogan after Soma mine disaster

15 May 2014

A group of locals booed and whistled at Prime Minister Erdoğan who was visiting the town of Soma yesterday after an explosion in a mine took the lives of 282 people, Turkish daily ‘Hürriyet’ reported.

While the prime minister was making a statement to the press outside Soma’s Municipal building, the crowd demanded that his government resign. Security officers tried to disperse the protesters.

During the press conference held one day after the deadly mine blast, Erdoğan told reporters that accidents happened in all kinds of workplaces including coal mines, so “nobody should be surprised” when they happen.

“In late March, this mine was inspected in regards to health and security and was confirmed to have been successful in regards to workers’ health and workplace safety,” he replied to a reporter who asked who was responsible for the disaster.

Erdogan had clearly prepared for such questions when he began reading out some statistics on deaths in various coal mining accidents in the past. Oddly, the list had a few examples from Britain in the 19th century.

“These accidents are things which are always happening. Please, we should not interpret what happens in these coal mines as impossible. These things are normal. There is something called ‘work accidents’ in the literature. This does not only happen at mines, but at other workplaces too,” said Erdoğan said, who said earlier that around 120 workers were believed to have still been trapped in the mine.

Nevertheless, the prime minister promised that there would be a thorough investigation into the event.

“I want everybody to be sure that this accident is being and will be investigated to the extent of meticulous details. We don’t and will not allow any negligence,” Erdoğan said, pledging that the issue will be clarified through a process that would satisfy both the families of the victims and the public.

Erdoğan had caused outrage in May 2010 following the death of 30 miners in an accident at the Karadon coal mine in the Black Sea province of Zonguldak when he declared that such deaths were part of the “fate” of mine workers.

“The people of the region are quite used to events like these. This profession has this in its destiny. The workers get into the profession knowing that these kinds of incidents may occur,” he said at the time.

Yesterday, he warned the people not to be taken in by extremists who might try to exploit this accident in order to harm “the country’s unity and integrity.”

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