Technicians warned shift supervisor over poor state of electrical cables
A body of miner is carried to an ambulance in Soma, a district in Turkey's western province of Manisa, late May 16. REUTERS Photo / Osman Orsal
Technicians at the Soma mine warned supervisors that the poor state of electrical cables could cause a deadly breakdown, only two weeks before the accident that claimed the lives of 301 workers, a survivor has said.
“I overheard my friend Ergun Sidal, who worked as an electrical technician, telling the shift supervisors 17 days ago that the cables would not be able to bear the electrical panel. He said there would certainly be a failure resulting in a disaster. He always told us, ‘We will all die here. One day they will pull out all of our dead bodies from this mine.’ Everything has happened just as he said,” said Mehmet Ali Dinçer, who miraculously survived the accident.
Dinçer’s account comes as evidence grows that the company operating the mine ignored repeated safety warnings. The owner, however, has ruled out any negligence from his side.
Desperate miners prayed
Dinçer has also described the chaotic scenes after the fire erupted inside the mine, with miners trying to find the best possible escape route. He said the group of 142 miners he was with decided to walk to one end of a tunnel, where they thought fresh air was likely to be pumped, but as the smoke started to spread most of the workers could not even move.
“Many of my friends fainted, some started to perform prayers. There were people shouting in pain,” Dinçer said.
“Everybody was crying that they would die there. Some prayed to see their moms, dads and kids. I saw a shift supervisor fainting. Then the air started to feel cold, and I understood that they were pumping in fresh air,” he said.
Those measures came too late, however, as only six of the 142 miners were conscious, Dinçer said.
“We had to escape by stepping on those who were on the floor,” he added.
The disaster that struck one of the largest lignite mines in western Turkey has sparked huge outcry, amid calls for a better accountability of the companies operating such mines.