Miners used their last breath in turns in Soma’s sole refuge chamber, rescuers say

Miners used their last breath in turns in Soma’s sole refuge chamber, rescuers say

MANİSA - Doğan News Agency
Miners used their last breath in turns in Soma’s sole refuge chamber, rescuers say

An injured miner is carried by rescuers after the explosion at the Soma mine on May 13. AFP Photo / Bülent Kılıç

Fourteen miners who took shelter inside the only refuge chamber available at the Soma mine used oxygen masks in turns before perishing, response teams have said, as chilling new details regarding the worst accident in Turkish mining history continue to emerge.

The disaster has drawn attention to the lack of refuge chambers in mines in Turkey. The accident revealed that the mine in Soma, employing a total of 6,500 miners, possessed just one chamber, even though owner Alp Gürkan claimed during an interview with daily Dünya on April 29, 2013 that the mine had several. The chamber, which only had an area of five square meters, was also proven insufficient, contradicting Gürkan’s account that the facilities could provide enough oxygen and food for miners for “20 days.”

The 14 miners are thought to have entered the small chamber after realizing that it would be impossible to exit the mine before running out of oxygen as the mine was being overwhelmed by deadly carbon monoxide gas due to fire.

They reportedly used the oxygen bottles available in the chamber in turns, passing the masks around until the air was exhausted.

Rescue workers who entered the chamber found the bodies of the 14 piled one on top of the other.

Only four mines possess chamber

According to research conducted by the Mining Engineers’ Chamber, only four of some 400 mines possess refuge chambers, but all four are metal mines, not coal.

The refuge chambers, which come in various models, are designed to provide all essentials to miners until they are reached by rescue teams. They can provide oxygen, food and water for up to 40 people for a month, according to the model. The chambers also include first-aid kits and telephones.

According to Doğan News Agency, the prices vary from $80,000 for a chamber that can contain 12 people to $200,000-250,000 for ones that can shelter 40 miners.

Countries such as the United States, Britain and Germany require mining firms to possess chambers if the walking distance between the mine’s mouth and the tunnels is over one hour.

Only a few countries, including Turkey, Pakistan and Afghanistan, lack legal arrangements regarding the existence of refuge chambers in mines.

According to Doğan News Agency, companies producing the refuge chambers have submitted a report on their projects to Turkish authorities. The projects, however, were suspended after uncertainty regarding whether the matter fell under the purview of the Labor Ministry or the Energy Ministry.