Turkey, mourning over 275 dead miners, erupted in violent rage after Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan claimed the incident wasn’t unique and that, “accidents happen.' Apart from those that perished, around 200 workers remain trapped in the mine in Soma, about 480 km (300 miles) southwest of Istanbul. The Turkish PM also visited the site, but his speech on the occasion did more damage than good.
"We as a nation of 77 million are experiencing a very great pain," he started off with the right note but got defensive when asked whether sufficient precautions had been in place. "Explosions like this in these mines happen all the time. It's not like these don't happen elsewhere in the world," he responded; reeling off a list of global mining accidents since 1862.
Coupled with the fact that most of Turkey was already unhappy with Erdogan, the timing of his words couldn’t have been worse. They were hardly what a nation in mourning needed to hear.
we have a black day. 250 miners are death in mine diseaster in Manisa-Soma-Turkey pic.twitter.com/KKqmQ3Psj4— Artistic Ideas (@artistic_ideas) May 14, 2014
The people came onto the streets, voicing their anger against Erdogan’s insensitive comments. The government responded in its usual way- with water cannons and tear gas. What ensued was mayhem.
This is not an unlikely sight in Turkey, but at a time when the entire country is in shock and pain over such a great disaster, the government’s action seems to be the result of extremely poor judgment.
Turkey’s energy minister Taner Yildiz said the fire was still blazing inside the mine and the air around it was rife with swirled with smoke and soot making rescue even more difficult.
Unfortunately the casualties are expected to rise. Taner Yildiz said there were 787 people inside the coal mine at the time of the explosion.
He doesn’t have much hope for survivors, "Regarding the rescue operation, I can say that our hopes are diminishing."