Thursday, May 15, 2014, 16:06
282 dead in Turkey's mine disaster
By Associated Press

282 dead in Turkey's mine disaster

An injured miner is carried to an ambulance after being rescued from a coal mine in Turkey's western province of Manisa on Tuesday. The death toll from an explosion and fire at the mine continued to rise on Wednesday as workers were still retrieving the dead and injured more than 12 hours after the blast, the country's energy minister said. (Emre Tazegul / Reuters)

282 dead in Turkey's mine disaster

Protesters run away from water canon fired by the riot police during a demonstration blaming the ruling AK Party (AKP) government for the mining disaster in western Turkey, in central Istanbul May 14, 2014. (Photo / Agencies)

SOMA, Turkey - Rescue teams have recovered eight more victims from a coal mine in western Turkey, raising the death toll in Turkey's worst mining disaster to 282, a government minister said Thursday.

Even as hopes for some 150 other miners trapped underground faded, Energy Minister Taner Yildiz told reporters that rescue efforts were focusing on two areas inside the mine.

Yildiz said the operation was hampered by a fire still blazing inside the mine.

The government has said 787 people were inside the coal mine at the time of Tuesday's explosion and 363 were rescued, including scores who were injured.

The death toll topped a 1992 gas explosion that killed 263 workers near Turkey's Black Sea port of Zonguldak.

Anti-government protests broke out Wednesday in the mining town of Soma, as well as Istanbul and the capital, Ankara, with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan heckled as he tried to show concern. Protesters shouted "Murderer!'' and "Thief!'' and Erdogan was forced to seek refuge in a supermarket, surrounded by police.

The display of anger could have significant repercussions for the Turkish leader, who is widely expected to run for president in the August election, although he has yet to announce his candidacy.

Authorities said the disaster followed an explosion and fire at a power distribution unit and most deaths were caused by carbon monoxide poisoning. Erdogan promised the tragedy would be investigated to its "smallest detail" and that "no negligence will be ignored."

Mining accidents are common in Turkey, which is plagued by poor safety conditions. Tuesday's explosion tore through the mine as workers were preparing for a shift change, which likely raised the casualty toll.

Turkey's Labor and Social Security Ministry said the mine had been inspected five times since 2012, most recently in March, and that no safety violations were detected. But the country's main opposition party said Erdogan's ruling party had recently voted down a proposal to hold a parliamentary inquiry into a series of small-scale accidents at the mines around Soma.