Agence France-Presse

Soma begins burying its miners as riot police fire tear gas at protesters in Turkey

People carry the coffins of the miners to the cemetery after a mining disaster on May 15, 2014 in Soma, a district in Turkey's western province of Manisa.
Credit: Ahmet Sik

The confirmed death toll in Turkey's eastern mining town of Soma stood at more than 280 on Friday, and there was little hope of survivors among those left trapped after an explosion and fire in a coal mine three days ago.

Around 790 miners were in the mine when the explosion happened, and of those 363 have been rescued.

Turkey's Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said no more than 18 remained trapped.

The mining accident is the worst such disaster in Turkey's history, and has sparked outrage across the country.

One banner in Istanbul read, "It's not an accident, it's murder."

The owners of the mine and government officials have for the most part shrugged off responsibility for the incident, according to the Associated Press.

The mine operator denied negligence, and said operations would continue in the mine, according to Turkish news site Hurriyet. The operating manager admitted that a "refuge chamber" that could have saved lives had not been constructed in the mine.

"Legally, we don't have an obligation to build a refuge chamber. But we would have completed it in three-four months if this accident hadn’t happened."

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited the town on Thursday, deflecting blame by telling mourning relatives that "these types of incidents are ordinary things."

Around 1,500 anti-government protesters gathered in Soma on Friday. Riot police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse them.

  • People carry the coffins of the miners to the cemetery after a mining disaster on May 15, 2014 in Soma, a district in Turkey's western province of Manisa.
    Credit: Ahmet Sik
  • Relatives mourning in Soma. Rescuers were still trying to reach parts of the coal mine in Soma, 480 km (300 miles) southwest of Istanbul, almost 48 hours after fire knocked out power and shut down the ventilation shafts and elevators, trapping hundreds underground.
    Credit: Ahmet Sik
  • Turkish miners waiting for their trapped colleagues in front of the mine in Soma. At least 282 people have been confirmed dead, mostly from carbon monoxide poisoning, and hopes are fading of pulling out any more alive of the 100 or so still thought to be inside.
    Credit: Ozgu Ozdemir
  • Relatives check the lists of survivors in Soma on May 15, 2014.
    Credit: Ozgu Ozdemir
  • Protesters runs away from tear gas fired by riot police during a demonstration blaming the ruling AK Party (AKP) government for the mining disaster in western Turkey, in Ankara on May 15, 2014.
    Credit: ADEM ALTAN
  • Protesters clash with riot police at Kadikoy in Istanbul as they protest the deaths of miners on May 15, 2014.
    Credit: GURCAN OZTURK
  • Protesters clash with riot police at Kadikoy in Istanbul as they protest the deaths of miners on May 15, 2014.
    Credit: GURCAN OZTURK
  • Distressed friends and relatives of miners waiting at the entrance to the mine in Soma on May 16, 2014 in Soma, Turkey.
    Credit: Oli Scarff
  • People mourn in a cemetery on May 16, 2014 in the western town of Soma after an explosion and a fire in a coal mine killed nearly 300 workers.
    Credit: BULENT KILIC
  • People mourn in a cemetery on May 16, 2014 in the western town of Soma after an explosion and a fire in a coal mine killed nearly 300 workers.
    Credit: BULENT KILIC
  • Miners listen on May 16, 2014 during a press conference, to the Soma Holding owner, the operator of their mine where an explosion killed at least 284 workers three days before.
    Credit: BULENT KILIC
  • Relatives of the miners pour water on flowers on the graves in the cemetery in Soma, on May 16, 2014 in Soma, Turkey.
    Credit: Ozgu Ozdemir

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