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Last bodies to leave Soma mine bring death toll up to 301

17 May 2014

The bodies of the last two miners who died following an explosion and fire at the Soma mine in Manisa province, Turkey were brought to the surface today, Turkish daily ‘Zaman’ reports. The death toll is now 301 in Turkey’s worst mining disaster to date.

A new fire broke out in the mine today, hindering the rescue teams. Energy Minister Taner Yıldız said it had been extinguished and two more dead workers found. He said the numbers added up with the missing persons’ information provided by families.

Protests spread across Turkey with mine owners being accused of putting profit over the safety of the workers. Prime Minister Erdoğan was targeted by some in the crowds at Soma for his insensitive remarks about the event. His government is also perceived to be hand in glove with heads of industry. Anger and frustration spilled over in Soma on Friday as riot police fired tear gas and water cannon to disperse several thousand protesters.

Over the past decade, Turkey has seen rapid economic growth but industrial safety legislation has not kept up and its industry has one of the world’s worst accident records.

Demonstrators in Izmir and Istanbul faced riot police and a number of people were arrested. Protesters threw stones and fireworks at the police and onlookers standing at their windows banged pots and pans in a reflection of the Gezi riots which took place last June.

Police dispersing crowds in Soma can only increase the public’s anger towards Erdoğan. Although he has survived a series of mass demonstrations and a corruption probe into his government over the past year, he still remains Turkey’s most powerful and influential politician. However, observers believe that now he may have alienated the conservative, working-class voters who form the foundations of his party.

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