A coal mine collapsed in southern Turkey Tuesday, trapping 23 people, according to Turkish state television reports. The accident took place in the town of Ermenek, in Karaman province. Initial reports said eight miners were rescued. No deaths have been reported so far.
The mine collapse in Ermenek, the second in Turkey within fve months, is more bad news for President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as he faces war on the Syrian frontier. In May, an explosion at a mine in Soma caused an underground fire and killed more than 300 people. It is considered the worst mining disaster in the country's history. Before the explosion at Soma, miners had protested unsafe working conditions, but the government refused to investigate.
The Soma disaster stirred political tensions in the Turkish government. Families of the victims demanded an investigation, but Erdoğan, then prime minister, was defensive about the matter. In a speech following the mine explosion, he suggested that mining incidents were commonplace, according to the New York Times report from the scene of the disaster.
Erdoğan's Justice and Development Party (AKP) was criticized at the time for not doing more to answer the public's questions about the mining disaster. Many analysts at the time accused the AKP for avoiding investigating Soma becuase of its political ties with big coal companies. Opposition lawmakers accused the government of "allowing companies to get away with lax safety standards and low wages," the Wall Street Journal reported.
In the past, many of the country's blue-collar workers, especially those in southern Turkey, supported Erdoğan for his economic policies, which they thought would bring prosperity and growth. Following the Soma mining disaster, many of those workers said they felt betrayed by Erdoğan, charging his policies did not protect their safety. The Ermenek mine collapse Tuesday is likely to add to that sentiment.