Miners go back to work a week after Soma tragedy
Banu Şen / Rıza Özel MANİSA / Hürriyet
Among the five lignite coal mines operating around Soma, three are owned by the company operating the mine near the Eynez village that was struck by the accident. HÜRRİYET PhotoThe production must go on in the mines around Soma despite the deaths of 301 workers last week, as a small group of miners went back to work for the first time on May 20, a week after the tragic accident.
Among the five lignite coal mines operating in the region, three are owned by the company operating the mine near the Eynez village that was struck by the accident.
Work in the Soma Coal Mine Company’s other two mines has stopped, with only a small group of technicians entering to maintain the tunnels.
But trucks have piled in a queue near the two other fields to transport the extracted coal, particularly to coal power plants, which are the top clients for the lignite produced in Soma. Some 300 workers have started to open new tunnels for a field owned by Demir Export.
Ferdi Şahin, who was among the first workers to return to the mines after the accident, told daily Hürriyet he had been overwhelmed in the course of his entire shift. “Risking my own life did not come into my mind at all. But I thought about my friends and what they experienced underground. I saw their children’s faces. What we have been through in the past few days. It was very difficult, very heavy,” Şahin said.
As many, Şahin said he had no choice, but to work for subsistence, despite the effort now being more painful after the tragedy. “[The disaster] did not go out of my mind for even one minute. I felt half-hearted to work. We were supposed to go back to the mine right after the accident. I came, but I couldn’t do it, I returned from the entrance of the mine. But now, there is no other option but to work,” he said.
Union members call for swift implementation of safety norms
Meanwhile, members from the mining union have called for a swift implementation of safety regulations in the mines, stressing abandoning the structures could be very dangerous.
“There is water underground, coal can leak and air has to constantly circulate in those tunnels. There are 50 people in the mine to pump the water and fix the electrical and mechanical failures. Not letting anyone enter a mine constitutes a huge risk,” said Recep Satır, from the Maden-İş union, referring to another field of the Soma Coal Mine Company.
“Inspectors have to act quickly to implement the security regulations on the mines, except for the one where the accident happened,” he said.
Many workers and families of the victims are participating in a sit-in in front of the courthouse in Soma, asking for an investigation on union members, along with company officials, for failing to implement security measures. A total of eight arrests have been made so far related to the accident, including the CEO and the general manager of the Soma Coal Mine Company.