Coal-black death overwhelms Soma villages

Coal-black death overwhelms Soma villages

Gülden AYDIN
Coal-black death overwhelms Soma villages

Hundreds of men and women are in grief in front of the house of Tuncay Şahin, a father of four, who was brought out dead. Some 15,000 miners work at the facilities in Soma. HÜRRİYET photo, Levent KULU

We arrived at the Soma Kömür İşletmeleri facility at 2.30 a.m. Ambulances were passing by with their sirens. The state was there with all its might. Aid tents, trucks full of water and food, firefighters, the gendarmerie, the police… Thousands of men and women were waiting there, standing. The tired laments of mothers had come to an end. All eyes were on the stretchers that would come out of the mouth of the deadly mine.

The large crowd moved forward to the bodies that came out every now and then.

“Open the face,” they told the officials. Their young and beautiful faces were stained with blood from their noses and eyes. Muddy miner boots were on their feet. The wails of the mothers would tear your heart out.

Adalet was exhausted. She was talking to herself, beating her lap. “No, it’s not my Cengiz. He will come out,” she said.

The smoke had got thicker by 4.30 a.m. and search and rescue work was halted. The relatives of miners were all standing still. The body of Cengiz, Adalet’s 34-year-old sweetheart, would come to light only in the afternoon on the same day.

They lie in darkness

The stretchers started to emerge one after another in the morning. The search and rescue teams were from the three mines in the area and their friends from the neighboring province of Kütahya.

“There weren’t enough oxygen masks. Friends were fainting from the lack of air. We had to come out without taking out our friends. The ones you see are those from the upper [parts of the mine]. We think 300 to 500 friends were there,” said one miner who had got out.  

Zone of mourning

Some 15,000 miners work at the facilities in Soma, a large proportion of the town population. The miner population in nearby Kırkağaç is also high. The town of Kınık sacrificed 85 sons, while 11 from the village of Köseler and 11 from Elmadere (three have not been found yet) also perished.

The Fatih neighborhood of Kınık was also mourning. Hundreds of men and women are in grief. The body of Tuncay Şahin, 38, a father of four, was brought out. His wife was crying on the shoulder of hundreds of other women in the court of the house. One cannot stand it.

This is mass murder: Workers

“We are all miners, most of us work at that mine,” said the mourning men. ”I have been working at that mine for five years for 55 liras per day,” said Erkan, 25. “I escaped with two seconds only. We searched for our friends for 24 hours.”

There are no precautions at the mine, he said. “No shelters. You have to crawl in the galleries. There is no maintenance, only production.”

Then Ersan, 35, spoke. “A fire broke out. Four power units of 6,000 volts could not carry the load of working 24/7. The power units should have been halted but they were used for more coal. The coal caught fire because of sparks. My friends suffocated from the smoke,” he said.

Retired miner Mahmut Akın, 62, said that during his service the mine belonged to the state and there were no subcontractors. “Such a massacre has not happened for years. This is mass murder. The people who have died are between the ages of 25 and 35,” he said.

Village waiting for bodies

Köseler, a poor village with no farm land, is 80 kilometers from the mine. Mining is the village’s sole source of income. Husbands and sons in the village have lost their lives at the mine, to which they used to travel for four hours every day in three shifts.

Villagers in Kırkağaç were also mourning. They were waiting for more bodies. Identification was not over. Men were gathered at the village square for condolences.

Some 115 out of 130 households there are involved in mining, said local İbrahim Köseler. “I only escaped as I was on my annual leave,” he said.