Protesters are venting their anguish as the death toll from the mining disaster in Turkey soars to 245 lives lost. Hope is fading that workers still trapped in the mine will be rescued alive.
A group of protesters in the western Turkish city of Soma, yelled "murderer" and "thief" at Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan (pictured above) on Wednesday when he visited the site of Tuesday's mining disaster. There were also calls for his government to step down.
Large crowds had gathered outside the mine, which collapsed following an explosion Tuesday with 787 workers inside, according to Energy Minister Taner Yildez.
He said on Wednesday the death toll had risen to 245 killed. Officials had earlier said 363 workers had been rescued since Tuesday's explosion.
An estimated 120 miners remain trapped underground.
"Our hope is that, God willing, they will be brought out," Erdogan said. "That is what we are waiting for."
Energy Minister Yildiz was less optimistic in his comments, saying that "our hopes are diminishing" for the rescue operation.
He said some of the workers were 420 meters (460 yards) deep inside the mine.
It is suspected that many of the workers were killed quickly after the explosion due to carbon monoxide poisoning. Continuing fires and the further risk of carbon monoxide hampered rescuers' efforts to reach the trapped miners.
In the Turkish capital Ankara, a group of mostly students was pushed back by police using tear gas and water cannons as they planned to march on the energy ministry to protest what they called negligence by the government and the mining industry.
Lack of oversight?
Mining accidents are not unheard of in Turkey, which has been critisised in the past for its lack of oversight of worker safety.
A report from March by Turkey's statistics agency cited by the news agency AP indicated that around 10 percent of all work accidents in Turkey relate to mining.
A deadly mining accident in 1992 near the Black Sea claimed 263 lives, and poor safety regulations have contributed to several more deadly incidents.
Turkey has not ratified the International Labor Organization's convention concerning safety and health in mines, which was drafted in 1998.
Turkey's Labor and Social Security Ministry said the mine had been inspected five times since 2012, including in March of 2014, without violations being detected.
mz/ipj (dpa, Reuters, AP, AFP)