Turkey commemorates fifth anniversary of Soma mining disaster
May 13 marked the fifth anniversary of Turkey’s deadliest ever mining accident, with the families of the victims flocking to the graves of their loved ones in the Soma district of the western province of Manisa amid commemoration ceremonies.
On May 13, 2014, Turkey was shocked by news of the mine disaster that had taken place in Soma. Outrage and the shock grew when the number of miners killed in the accident hit 301, although the lives claimed could have been much higher, as a total of 780 miners were underground when the fire erupted during a shift change.
The families of the 301 victims visited the graveyard constructed for the late miners, where each grave is covered with black marble and has a Davy lamp.
The graves were also covered in Turkish flags.
Families read excerpts from the Quran, which is an Islamic tradition done to honor the deceased and is sent to the deceased’s soul.
Official commemoration events were held by the Manisa Governor’s Office, Soma District Governor’s Office, Manisa Metropolitan Municipality and Soma Municipality during the day.
In addition, a separate commemoration ceremony was organized by the chamber of mining engineers’ Zonguldak branch. The branch head, Erdoğan Kaymakçı, said during the ceremony that the Soma mining accident had created a “big sensitivity and awareness” in society.
“The trial regarding the Soma disaster has lasted four years and the judicial decision was announced on July 11, 2018. At the end of the judiciary process, 37 suspects have been acquitted, while 14 suspects have received penalties. And the number of convicted prisoners [regarding the case] is now down to four, with the employers being released from prison. That the employer has been released without even staying in prison for a period of five years has hurt the public conscious,” Kaymakçı was quoted as saying by Demirören News Agency during the event.
Out of 51 defendants in the case, 14 were sentenced to jail, while 34 others were acquitted by a court ruling on July 11, 2018.
Delays in the investigation and trial process had frustrated families of the victims since the start of the trial in 2015. The verdicts given by the court were lighter than sought by prosecutors when the trial started in April 2015, causing uproars among the family members of the killed miners.
One of these 14 people who received sentences was the CEO of Soma Kömür İşletmeleri (Soma Coal Enterprises), Can Gürkan.
Gürkan was released from prison on April 18 this year by a court order.
The Soma mine disaster was the worst industrial accident in the country, with unions and workers blaming poor working conditions and lack of safety regulations for laborers.