About 282 people are thought to have died in a devastating coal mine accident in the Turkish town of Soma.
The accident which happened on Tuesday was said to have been caused by an explosion which happened due to faulty electrical equipment, leading to a fire in the mine and carbon monoxide poisoning which has been blamed for the deaths.
This is the worst mining accident in the Turkey since a similar explosion took the lives of about 263 miners in 1992 near the town of Zonguldak.
Over 400 of the 787 miners who were underground before the explosion have been rescued with an estimated 150 still trapped below 2 days after the accident.
The Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan who visited the site of the incident said hopes of finding the remaining miners alive was fast diminishing. He also tried to address criticism that his government had ignored previous warnings about safety issues in the mine weeks before the accident happened citing mining accidents which took place in 19th century Britain as proof that accidents of such nature were inevitable.
“This is what happens in coal mining,” he said.
“There is no such thing as accident-free work,”, reports the Guardian.
“Let me go back to the past in England,” he said. “In a slide in 1862, 204 people died, in 1866, 361 people died, and in an explosion in England in 1894, 290 died. So let’s please not say that these things never happen elsewhere in coal mines. These things happen. We do have something called an accident at work.”
Mr Erdogan assured the crowd that his government would leave no stone unturned in an effort to get to the bottom of the tragedy.
Only weeks ago, the ruling AKP party rejected calls by the opposition to investigate safety concerns at the mine insisting tests had been carried out certifying the safety of workers.
Mining accidents are common in Turkey, a country which is rated the third poorest in industrial safety standards by the international labour organisation.
The country has since been rocked by protests as youths took the streets to express their anger at the lives lost and what they perceive to be the government’s inaction to prevent such accidents from happening. They branded the Prime Minister a ‘thief’ and murderer’ and kicked and hit his care as he left the scene of the accident in Soma.
Police tried to disperse protesters who were marching towards the ruling party’s headquarters in Istanbul as well as another violent protest at the mining company’s headquarters.
Video reports show riot police using water cannons and rubber bullets to disperse protesters one of whom was in a wheelchair.
As rescue operations continue in Soma, families and relatives of those trapped in the mine continue to await news of their loved ones amidst dwindling hope of finding them alive.