Mining company in Soma ignored high levels of toxic gases at devastated mine

Sensors noted high levels of toxic gas inside a coal mine days before the disaster that killed 301 workers in Turkey but company officials took no action, Turkish news reports said Monday.

SOMA, Turkey — Sensors noted high levels of toxic gas inside a coal mine days before the disaster that killed 301 workers in Turkey but company officials took no action, Turkish news reports said Monday.

Prosecutors, meanwhile, formally arrested two more people for the devastating mine fire in the western town of Soma, raising the number of suspects facing charges of negligent death to five. Those detained included executives and supervisors at mine owner Soma Komur Isletmeleri A.S., prosecutors say.

Chief prosecutor Bekir Sahiner said 25 people were initially detained as part of the probe, but several were released without charges while eight others were released but could be charged later. Authorities were still questioning others, including the company’s CEO, Can Gurkan, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported.

The Hurriyet, HaberTurk and other Turkish newspapers said prosecutors and inspectors probing the worst mining disaster in Turkey’s history had seized data from the mine that indicated sensors showed high gas levels inside the mine as early as two days before the May 13 disaster. The reports say company officials did not record these high levels on log books and took no precautionary actions.

The Turkish newspapers did not cite source for their reports. Sahiner did not answer calls and no one picked up telephones at the prosecutors’ office in Soma or in the nearby city of Akhisar, which is leading the probe.

But miners who survived the disaster also told The Associated Press that supervisors ignored rising gas levels and failed to take precautionary measures. They have accused the company of failing to heed safety concerns and that government inspections has been superficial.

Sahiner said Saturday that a preliminary probe indicated that coal had been smouldering days before the disaster, causing the roof to collapse in one part of the mine and unleashing toxic gases that spread throughout.

Government and mining officials have both said that most victims died from toxic gases released by the fire. They have insisted, however, that the mine was inspected regularly, that safety standards were high and that negligence wasn’t a factor in the fire.

Government officials have promised to investigate and pledged that any mine officials found to be negligent would be punished. Still the disaster has provoked anger at a critical time for Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, as he mulls running in August’s presidential election.

Police have broken up protests denouncing poor mine safety in Soma and in Turkey’s three largest cities of Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir.

Nearly 2,000 university students, some wearing hard-hats, called on the government to resign as they marched Monday in Ankara to commemorate the beginning of the Turkish War of Independence started on May 19, 1919.

Erdogan on Monday defended the government’s response to the disaster and rejected accusations that the mining company had political ties to his ruling party.

“They say the boss is a party supporter,” Erdogan said. “I saw him for the first time (in Soma). I don’t know him… They (opponents) think they will gain from such slander.”

Turkey’s national soccer team visited Soma on Monday in a show of solidarity and prayed at the miners’ graves.

Just Posted

The City of Red Deer sits at 249 active cases of the virus, after hitting a peak of 565 active cases on Feb. 22. (Black Press file image)
Red Deer down to 119 active COVID-19 cases

Province identifies 179 new cases Saturday

Red Deer Emergency Services responded to an explosion at a duplex on Rupert Crescent Saturday morning. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)
Firefighters respond to explosion in Red Deer early Saturday morning

There was an explosion at a Red Deer duplex early Saturday morning.… Continue reading

Terry Betts, of Kananaskis, looks at the vehicle he was hoping to sell during the Quick Times Red Deer Swap Meet in the Westerner Park parking lot Saturday. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)
Quick Times Red Deer Swap Meet held outdoors

A big automotive swap meet was held outdoors this year in Red… Continue reading

The Alberta Sports Hall of Fame and Museum is set to re-open on July 2. (File Photo)
Alberta Sports Hall of Fame and Museum to reopen Monday

The Alberta Sports Hall of Fame and Museum will reopen for visitors… Continue reading

Huzaifa (left), Saif (middle) and Zoya (right) were among the 60 or so Red Deerians who participated in a vigil for the victims of a recent terrorist attack that killed four people in London Ont. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
Red Deer vigil honours victims of London, Ont. terrorist attack

About 60 people gathered at the corner of 49 Ave. and 50… Continue reading

A man wears a face mask as he walks by a sign for a COVID-19 vaccination site in Montreal, Sunday, May 16, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Canada paid a premium to get doses from Pfizer earlier than planned

OTTAWA — Canada paid a premium to get more than 250,000 doses… Continue reading

The Kamloops Indian Residential School in Kamloops, B.C., is shown in this 1930 handout photo. HO — Deschatelets-NDC Archives
Calls grow for Ottawa to review settlement decisions for residential school survivors

Lawyer Teri Lynn Bougie still cries when she talks about the final… Continue reading

Syringes are readied at a COVID-19 mobile vaccination clinic for members of First Nations and their partners, Friday, April 30, 2021 in Montreal. Most of the federal contracts for COVID-19 vaccines allow for Canada to donate some of its doses to other countries or international aid organizations and in at least three cases, for the doses to be resold.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Canada’s vaccine contracts allow for doses to be donated, in some cases resold

OTTAWA — Most of the federal contracts for COVID-19 vaccines allow for… Continue reading

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, responds to the report on the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, in Vancouver, on Monday June 3, 2019. As stories of the horrors of residential schools circulate after the Tk'emlups te Secwepemc First Nation announced it had located what are believed to be the remains of 215 children, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs said he feels a connection with the former students. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Two sides of the same coin: Ex-foster kids identify with residential school survivors

VANCOUVER — As stories of the horrors of residential schools circulate after… Continue reading

A woman sits and weeps at the scene of Sunday's hate-motivated vehicle attack in London, Ont. on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. Four members of a family in London, Ont., are set to be buried today. The public has been invited to help celebrate the lives of Talat Afzaal, 74, her son Salman Afzaal, 46, his wife Madiha Salman, 44, and their 15-year-old daughter Yumna Salman.THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Geoff Robins
Funeral to be held today for London family killed in attack

LONDON, Ont. — Four members of a Muslim family killed in what… Continue reading

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and United States President Joe Biden listen to United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson deliver opening remarks at a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, United Kingdom Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau to discuss foreign policy with G7 leaders at second day of summit meeting

CARBIS BAY, CORNWALL, ENGLAND — Foreign policy is on the agenda for… Continue reading

Multivitamins are shown on the packaging line at the Pfizer plant in Montreal, Thursday, July 12, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Canadian drug companies want new pricing regs delayed again until after pandemic

OTTAWA — Almost three dozen Canadian pharmaceutical companies made a direct appeal… Continue reading

In this file photo, a lotto Max ticket is shown in Toronto on Monday Feb. 26, 2018. (By THE CANADIAN PRESS)
No winning ticket for Friday’s $70 million Lotto Max jackpot

TORONTO — The massive $70 million dollar Lotto Max jackpot remained unclaimed… Continue reading

Most Read