Turkish mine operator admits to no rescue chambers-UPDATED

The operator of the Turkish mine where 284 workers were killed this week in Turkey's worst ever mining disaster said on Friday there was "no negligence on the part of the company" and that it still did not know the exact cause of the accident.

Turkish mine operator admits to no rescue chambers-UPDATED

World Bulletin/News Desk

The operator of the Turkish mine in which 284 people died said on Friday a fire had not been linked to an electricity sub-station as some reports initially suggested, but that a build-up of heat had caused a partial collapse.

"It was an unbelievable accident in a place where there have been very few accidents in 30 years," said Soma Holding Chairman Alp Gurkan. "A mine with top level miners, accepted as being the most trustworthy and organised."

Claiming that there was only one rescue chamber in the mine which was at the time undergoing repairs, he said that another rescue chamber was in the process of being built. In other words, there was no available rescue chamber at the time of the accident.

"The building of a rescue chamber in the Soma mine would have caused more worker fatalities," he added.

Gurkan had previously said that rescue chambers were available.

Pledged help for the victims' families, Gurkan said, "I am also suffering because the miners were friends, he said. But we have taken all legal measures at the highest level."

He added that they would continue operating the mine, unless authorities decided otherwise at the end of the investigation.

Soma Holding said 284 people were confirmed dead and 18 others were thought still to be trapped underground after a fire in its mine in the western town of Soma.

The company said 363 people were evacuated from the mine after fire broke out on Tuesday and a further 122 miners were hospitalised. It said there were 787 miners working at the time.

The operator of the Turkish mine where 284 workers were killed this week in Turkey's worst ever mining disaster said on Friday there was no negligence on the part of the company and that it still did not know the exact cause of the accident.

"No negligence"

"There was no negligence, operating manager Akin Celik said. "The focus so far has been on rescuing the workers, we haven't found out yet how the fire started."

"We still do not know how the accident happened. There is no negligence of ours in this incident. We all worked heart and soul," he added, saying he might resign if needed.

He added that the exit was 350 meters from where the workers were, but they could not reach it as the smoke reduced visibility to only one meter.

Celik also dismissed the allegations that the fire broke out during a shift change. "If so, the death toll would be higher," he said.

He insisted that there were rescue chambers in the mine but that the problem truly lay in the fact that the incident occurred within three to five minutes.

"When we bought the mine, there were two 500-person capacity chambers, he said. We divided them in two. The first chamber called "Panel S" lost its relevance as the work moved away from it. But "Panel A" remained."

Celik also dismissed recent claims of the mining company resorting to contracted labor. "All our 2,941 workers are regular staff, not contracted," he said, adding that there were no underage workers in the mine, the youngest one being 18 and a half years old.

Thousands gathered after noon prayers on Thursday for mass funerals at Soma's main cemetery, where more than a hundred tightly packed graves have been newly dug. Efforts to retrieve those still trapped continued on the edge of a community where much of the population either works in or has relatives employed by the mining industry.

Last Mod: 16 Mayıs 2014, 18:01
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