The death toll in Turkey’s worst mining accident increased to 282 on Thursday as rescue teams recovered eight more victims from the coal mine in Soma in the country's west.
Rescue teams have brought out 363 miners while another 150 have not been accounted for yet, Associated Press, or AP, reported adding that not a single miner has been brought outside alive since Wednesday. Turk-Is, the country’s largest union that represents more than 800,000 workers, along with several smaller unions in cities like Istanbul and Ankara, began protests over poor safety standards in the country's mines while the location is being inspected by a group of engineers, who indicated that the gas inside the mine was poisonous and led to the choking of the miners due to improper ventilation.
"The fire was not caused by an electrical situation as presented to the public in the first statements," a local branch of the Chamber of Electrical Engineers said, in a statement Wednesday, according to CNN, adding: "The inspection revealed that the systems to sense poisonous and explosive gases in the mine and the systems to manage the air systems were insufficient and old."
The fire in the coal mine started Tuesday after a power transformer blew up during a change in workers' shifts, starting a choking fire underground. At the time of the explosion, 787 people were inside the mine, according to government estimates.
The accident, which was downplayed by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan earlier when he said that such accidents happen all around the world, has dragged his popularity to an all-time low, amid protests, allegations of bribery and calls to step down from office, AP reported Thursday. Erdogan was expected to announce his candidacy for the presidential elections slated in August, as his party had easily dominated local elections in March, despite a corruption scandal last year that forced him to dismiss four ministers.
Meanwhile Yusuf Yerkel, an adviser to Erdogan was also seen kicking a protester several times in photographs widely circulated in social media, an action for which he said he would provide a detailed explanation Thursday.