Turkey’s worst mining disaster the latest in a string of deadly accidents

WATCH: Grief is mixing with anger in Turkey as the death toll in the country’s worst mining disaster. Furious with reports the government ignored safety warnings, people in Soma called the prime minister a “murderer” when he arrived in town. Stuart Greer reports.

Turkey is dealing with the worst mining disaster in the country’s history — one that has a long list of deadly accidents.

The death toll from Tuesday’s explosion and fire at a coal mine in the town of Soma has climbed to 274, according to the energy minister.

Although more miners have been rescued, the number of workers killed is expected to rise.

READ MORE: How dangerous is Turkey’s mining industry?

Turkey has an abysmal record for deaths in the mining industry and has had a series of deadly accidents in the past.

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Turkey’s history of mining disasters

Prior to this, the worst mining accident killed 263 people.

It happened in 1992 and was the result of a gas explosion at a mine in Zonguldak province, an area with large coal reserves on the Black Sea coast.

Since that time, there have been several other fatal mine accidents in Zonguldak, including 28 workers dying after being trapped approximately 540 metres in a May 2010 blast at a coal mine in Karadon.

In just six months before that there were two other deadly explosions in Turkish mines: 13 people killed in Balikesir province in Feb. 2010 and 19 people in an explosion in Bursa province.

Of the 13 deadly accidents Turkey’s English-language Hurriyet Daily News listed among the country’s major accidents between 1983 and 2013, 11 were the result of methane blasts. The worst of those, a 1983 explosion in Armutçuk, claimed the lives of 103 miners.

The government did little to ease concerns about the conditions in Turkey’s mining sector. Following the 2010 Karadon explosion, Prime Minister Tayyip Recep Erdogan said miners were “quite used to events like these.”

“This profession has this in its destiny. The workers get into the profession knowing that these kinds of incidents may occur,” he said at the time.

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Three years after the Karadon explosion, more than 300 workers barricaded themselves inside a mine in Zonguldak to protest poor working conditions.

Number of deaths in Turkey’s mining sector

Turkey’s own statistics agency said deaths in the country’s mining industry account for 10.4 per cent of all workplace deaths.

There are about 100 mining-related deaths a year in Turkey: According to the International Labour Organization there were 1,172 deaths between 2001 and 2012, The Associated Press reported Wednesday.

READ MORE: 10 heartbreaking and powerful images from Turkey coal mine explosion

By comparison, the United Kingdom averaged six deaths between 2007 and 2012, while the U.S. saw an average of 35 deaths between 2009.

But, Turkey’s number of mining-related fatalities doesn’t even compare to China, which had 1,300 in 2012, down from 1,973 in 2011.

As far as injuries go, Hurriyet reported there have been more than 100,000 people injured in mining accidents.

According to The Associated Press, Turkey hasn’t ratified the International Labour Organization’s Safety and Health in Mines Convention.

*With files from The Associated Press


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