Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had to duck into a Soma shop on Wednesday to escape the fury of miners’ relatives, who blamed his government for not doing enough to prevent Tuesday’s mine explosion. Erdoğan also drew public ire for saying mine explosions “happen all the time” as he visited the site of the disaster.
Erdoğan encountered shouts to step down as he retreated to a supermarket to escape the crowds, the English-language Hurriyet Daily News reported.
Meanwhile, the death toll in the Turkey mine explosion climbed to 245 Wednesday as the country’s energy minister expressed pessimism that more miners would be rescued.
Live coverage of the aftermath of the explosion from ABC News showed ambulances stationed near the mine in western Turkey as they waited to receive casualties or survivors.
Hundreds of miners were trapped after an explosion rocked the mine on Tuesday in Soma. The explosion set off fires that were still raging Wednesday. Taner Yildiz, Turkey’s energy minister, said the fires are making rescue efforts difficult. About 93 miners have been rescued so far.
Erdoğan visited the mine in Soma, where angry relatives of the miners vented their frustration at Erdoğan’s government for not addressing safety at the mine. Turkey’s ruling party rejected a motion submitted to parliament two weeks ago by an opposition party that called for a review of mining safety in Soma.
"We as a nation of 77 million are experiencing a very great pain," Erdoğan told a news conference shortly after visiting the mine, Reuters reported.
"Explosions like this in these mines happen all the time," he said. "It's not like these don't happen elsewhere in the world."
Yildiz said “hopes were dimming” of finding additional survivors. "We are heading towards this accident likely being the deadliest ever in Turkey," he said.
The disaster spurred protests around the country, with demonstrations in Ankara, Istanbul and at the Soma local government building near the mine. Protesters shouted “Government: resign!” as Erdoğan visited the area. Students attempted to storm the energy ministry building in the Turkish capital but were rebuffed by police, while protesters gathered in Istanbul’s Taksim Square.