Thousands join strike and crowds heckle president while relatives begin to bury the nearly 300 coalminers killed in Soma
By Harriet Sherwood and agencies in Soma
theguardian.com, Thursday 15 May 2014
Anger at the deadly mine explosion in Turkey spread across the country on Thursday as thousands of workers joined a protest strike, demonstrators clashed with security forces, and families began to bury scores of men killed in the disaster.
As the death toll at the Soma coalmine pushed towards 300, with hopes extinguished for at least 100 more miners thought to be trapped deep in the pit, fury was directed at the Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan – and fuelled by pictures of one of his aides violently assaulting a protester, and claims that Erdoğan himself had struck a teenage girl.
The president, Abdullah Gül, visiting the area, described Tuesday's explosion as "a huge disaster", adding: "The pain is felt by all". But despite more restraint among relatives and protesters in Soma than during the prime minister's visit a day earlier, Gül was still heckled by crowds.
The first funerals for victims were held as labourers continued to dig rows of graves in a cemetery near the mine. Women with pictures of victims pinned to their clothing swayed, wailed and sang as coffins were lowered into the graves.
Some mourners said they had spent their lives fearing a catastrophic incident at the mine. "The wives of the miners kiss their husbands in the morning. When they come back, even if they are five minutes late, everyone starts calling. You never know what is going to happen," said Gulizar Donmez, 45, a neighbour of one of the victims and whose father and husband are both miners.