Turkish police fired water cannons and tear gas on Friday to disperse a crowd of several thousand protesters in the town of Soma, where close to 300 people have died in the country’s worst ever mining disaster this week, according to a witness.
People scattered into side streets as the police intervened on a commercial street lined with shops and banks, as well as the offices of the local government and labour union.
Anger swept across Turkey as the extent of the disaster became clear, with protests partly directed at mine owners accused of prioritising profit over safety and partly at Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s government, which is seen as being too cosy with industry tycoons and too lax in enforcing regulations.
“No coal can warm the children of fathers who died in the mine,” read one hand-written sign among the crowd, which had been trying to march towards a statue honouring miners in the centre of the town when police officers blocked the route.
Fire sent carbon monoxide coursing through the coal mine within minutes on Tuesday but the exact cause of the disaster remains unclear, the mine operator said on Friday.
Most of the 787 workers inside had oxygen masks but the smoke and gas spread so quickly that many were unable to escape, with 284 confirmed dead and 18 still believed to be trapped. – Reuters