A fatal mining accident in Turkey has claimed the lives of at least 41 miners. "We are very sad as a nation," said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday.
The accident on Friday in the Black Sea province of Bartin, around 300 kilometers northeast of the capital Ankara, is one of the worst industrial accidents in the country's recent history.
Numerous miners were trapped or killed as a result of an explosion at a depth of 300 meters in a coal mine. On Saturday, the last missing person of the 110 miners who were underground at the time of the explosion was found dead. Eleven were injured in the explosion at around 6:15 p.m. (local time), 58 miners were saved, according to Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu.
The Court of Auditors had warned in 2019
According to Energy Minister Fatih Dönmez, the accident was probably caused by a mine gas explosion. Investigations were ongoing, Erdogan said. The President promised financial help to the bereaved.
Erdogan said, "We believe in fate (...). Such accidents will always happen, no matter what you do". According to him, the most advanced systems were used in the mine. The newspaper "Birgün" then headlined: "Not fate, but massacre".
Miners who were working in the mine when the accident happened reported horrific scenes: "Everything collapsed with a huge explosion, I was just able to escape," miner Aydın Kalaycı told the state-affiliated Demirören Haber Ajansi news agency. "We were dragging the dead bodies of our colleagues," said another worker.
Sad series of bad accidents
Television images showed a rescued miner who refused to be taken to hospital. "Leave me, I'm fine, I want to go back," he said and after a short treatment joined the rescue teams, as recordings by the HaberTürk broadcaster showed. Some of the seriously injured were taken to hospitals in Istanbul and Ankara, state media reported.
There have been several serious mining accidents in the country in recent years, partly due to inadequate safety precautions. In 2014, an explosion at a coal mine in Manisa province in the Aegean region killed a total of 301 people. Even then, Erdogan, then Prime Minister, came under criticism after describing mine accidents as part of the nature of things.
Messages of condolence came from numerous countries via social media. Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, for example, who had recently exchanged harsh blows with Erdogan over various political differences, tweeted his condolences. "Sad to hear about the horrific mine explosion and loss of life in Bartin province in Türkiye. Greece stands ready to send aid immediately to help find survivors."