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Soma mine technician warned of poor state of electrical cables

18 May 2014

The Turkish government has promised to launch a thorough investigation into the deaths of 301 people in the Soma mine disaster, as residents in the town were subjected to police searches, arrests and protest bans, ‘Al Jazeera’ reports.

On Friday, the local government ordered a ban on protests. Police enforced the ban by patrolling the town and setting up checkpoints. Dozens of people were arrested today.

Eight lawyers from the Contemporary Jurists Association, including its leader, were arrested and handcuffed on suspicion that they were there to take part in more protests, the private Dogan news agency reported.

Those who were arrested were taken to a sports centre in the town where they chanted: “The pressure cannot intimidate us”, the agency said. The number of arrests could not be confirmed by ‘Al Jazeera’.

Families and unions have criticised the government’s handling of last Saturday’s disaster, and said the private firm which runs the coal mine, Soma Holding, did nothing to enforce safety standards.

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

Turkish daily ‘Hurriyet’ reports that technicians at Soma mine had warned supervisors that the poor state of the electrical cables could cause a lethal accident, only two weeks before the explosion at a power distribution unit and consequential fire claimed the lives of 301 workers, a survivor has said.

“I overheard my friend Ergun Sidal, who worked as an electrical technician, telling the shift supervisors 17 days ago saying that the cables would not be able to bear the electrical panel. He said there would certainly be a failure resulting in a disaster. He always told us, ‘We will all die here. One day they will pull out all of our dead bodies from this mine.’ Everything has happened just as he said,” said Mehmet Ali Dinçer, who miraculously survived the accident.

His account adds to mounting evidence that the mining company had ignored repeated safety warnings. However, the mine operator has denied accusations of negligence.

Managers held a tetchy news conference on Friday where they said an unexplained build-up of heat was believed to have caused one section of the mine to collapse, fanning a blaze which spread rapidly more than 2km under the surface.

Nihat Zeybekci, the economy minister, said the government would “do everything in our hands” to “resolve the grievances” of those in Soma.

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