Mourning in Turkey as mine disaster death toll rises to 282

At a graveyard in the western town of Soma, women wailed loudly in an improvised display of mourning, swaying and singing songs about their relatives as the bodies were taken from coffins and lowered into their graves.
People mourn near graves during a funeral ceremony in the western town of Soma in the Manisa province on May 15, 2014 after the country's worst mining accident which killed at least 282 workers and left scores trapped underground.  Bulent Kilic/AFP Photo
People mourn near graves during a funeral ceremony in the western town of Soma in the Manisa province on May 15, 2014 after the country's worst mining accident which killed at least 282 workers and left scores trapped underground. Bulent Kilic/AFP Photo

SOMA, Turkey // Women sang improvised ballads about the departed over freshly-dug graves yesterday, even as bulldozers carved row upon row of graves into the dirt and hearses lined up outside the cemetery with more victims of Turkey’s worst mining disaster.

Rescue teams recovered another eight bodies, raising the death toll to 282, while some 142 people were still unaccounted for, according to the government.

Tuesday’s disaster has set off protests around Turkey and thrown prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s presidential ambitions off stride. Blackening his reputation further, one of Mr Erdogan’s aides was accused of kicking a protester on the ground.

At a graveyard in the western town of Soma, women wailed loudly in an improvised display of mourning. They swayed and sang songs about their relatives as the bodies were taken from coffins and lowered into their graves. Pictures of the lost relatives were pinned onto their clothing.

“The love of my life is gone,” some sang, chanting the names of dead miners.

No miner has been brought out alive since dawn on Wednesday from the Soma coal mine where the explosion and fire took place. Many mourners said they spent their whole lives fearing something like.

“The wives of the miners kiss their husbands in the morning. When they come back, even if they are five minutes late, everyone starts calling. You never know what is going to happen,” said Gulizar Donmez, 45, the daughter and wife of a miner and neighbour of one of the victims.

Energy minister Taner Yildiz said yesterday that a fire inside the mine was dying down, offering hope that rescuers would be able to speed up their search.

Mr Erdogan, who is expected to soon announce his candidacy for Turkey’s presidential election in August, was not welcome during his visit to the area on Wednesday. He was forced to take refuge at a supermarket after angry mobs clashed with police and called him a murderer and a thief, a reference to alleged corruption.

Turkish newspapers Cumhuriyet and Milliyet printed photographs they said were of Mr Erdogan’s aide, Yusuf Yerkel, kicking a protester who was on the ground and being held by special forces police.

The prime minister’s office distanced itself from the incident, with one official saying the issue was “his own personnel matter”. The official confirmed there was a “melee” as Mr Erdogan entered a building but denied Turkish media reports that he had thrown a punch.

* Associated Press

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Published: May 15, 2014 04:00 AM

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