Workers die despite long efforts to cling onto life

Workers die despite long efforts to cling onto life

ERZURUM - Hürriyet Daily News
Workers die despite long efforts to cling onto life

Witnesses say the rescue teams arrived very late at the scene of the incident. ‘The rescue teams arrived so late; if there had been a boat we could have saved them,’ says one of the witnesses, adding that the victims waited for two hours in the icy lake, asking for someone to help. DHA photo

Electricity repair worker Feridun Öztürk and his friends did not know that an ice-covered lake would be the place where they would try to cling to life for hours before drawing their last breath, but so it became, when the pieces of ice they placed their hopes on were not enough to save them.

Workers Feridun Öztürk, Mustafa Arifoğulları, Sait Turan, Rıdvan Takım, and Şahin Baykal from the Turkish Electricity Distribution Company (TEDAŞ) had gone out on a pedal boat to repair a power line on the reservoir, but the boat reportedly hit ice on the lake’s surface and capsized. The five workers tried to remain afloat by holding onto pieces of ice while waiting for rescue teams to arrive, but their efforts to stay alive faded when the search teams could not locate them during the night, and the five disappeared from sight after darkness fell.

The incident took place at the Karasu 2 dam reservoir in the Aşkale district of the eastern province of Erzurum on the night of April 3. Although gendarmerie officers arrived at the scene and tried to save the workers by throwing ropes to them, they could not manage to reach them in the darkness and the workers sank in icy lake.

Waiting for help
Witnesses said the workers held onto the ice that covered most of the lake’s surface and waited for help. “We could hear them screaming for two hours. We shouted at them to move their legs, but they screamed back saying they had no strength. The rescue teams arrived so late; if there had been a boat we could have saved them,” said one of the workers who witnessed the accident. Video footage shows the workers clinging to ice in the freezing lake and also shows that they struggled to stay alive for almost an hour.

Authorities launched a search and rescue operation that included a helicopter and seven divers immediately after the accident, Aşkale District Gov. Asalet Karabulut said. Rescue efforts failed to find any trace of the workers, and the search was halted at 1 a.m. before being continued after daybreak at 6 a.m. yesterday morning. The body of worker Rıdvan Takım was found on April 4, as the Daily News went to print.

The incident happened on the same day that Turkey’s Parliament is preparing to discuss a new law draft which would regulate work safety measures.

The new regulations, if accepted, will give workers the right to stop work until their safety needs are met by the employer. Employers will also be obliged to provide and evaluate work safety conditions and workplaces will be classified as “dangerous” or “very dangerous.”

In another recent incident, eight workers went missing after a hatch inside a dam burst in the southern province of Adana.

The bodies of five of the workers are still missing, according to reports, and a detailed search was expected to be conducted in the area on April 4 to find them. However, the search efforts were delayed because the helicopters were being used in the search effort in Aşkale, reports said. Some 1,000 people blocked a road in Erzurum to protest the tardy rescue efforts but were dispersed by police wielding tear gas.