Family mourns death of miner in Turkey and demands punishment


AMASRA, Turkey (AP) — “My one and only, where are you,” a mother shouted at a cemetery next to a freshly laid mound of dirt. She could not digest the death of her 33-year-old son, killed in the explosion of a coal mine in northern Turkey.

Selcuk Ayvaz was among the first to be buried, following a funeral on Saturday where his coffin was wrapped in the red and white Turkish flag. Relatives told her stunned 3-year-old daughter to say goodbye to her coffin. His wife, who is expecting their third child – a boy – any day now, was distraught, slowly eating a bar of chocolate from the hand of a social worker.

Friday’s explosion at Turkey’s state-owned Hard Coal Enterprise (TTK) mine in the Black Sea town of Amasra killed 41 miners and injured 11. Five of the injured are in critical condition in a hospital Istanbul, suffering from burns that cover 65% to 85% of their body, according to the Minister of Health.

There were 110 miners at the time of the explosion. Fifty-eight of them escaped alone or were rescued.

Ayvaz’s father kissed a picture of him twice saying “my baby”. Recep Ayvaz, 62, said he rushed to Amasra from his village when he heard about the mine explosion.

“I waited and waited and there was no news,” he explained. He then learned that his son was in children’s hospital. When he got there, he saw cars in front of the morgue and his eldest son identified his brother’s body.

“I asked them to show me and they showed me my child,” the father said, describing his son’s head injuries. “His hair, his mustache were all burned, his sides blackened, it’s still before my eyes, I can’t forget it.”

The Turkish flag hung at their house of mourning.

“Our pain is immense. What can I say ? My daughter-in-law is at home, she will give birth in two or three days. My wife is very bad. She fainted two or three times and the same for my daughter-in-law,” Recep Ayvaz said.

Energy Minister Fatih Donmez said preliminary assessments indicated the tragedy was caused by a firedamp explosion – when methane gas mixes with air and fire – creating a dangerous underground situation.

The minister announced on Sunday that coal production at the Amasra mine would be halted until investigations were completed, state-run Anadolu reported. Five prosecutors were investigating, according to the Minister of Justice.

But Ayvaz’s mother, Habibe, was not appeased. The 63-year-old said she heard there was a gas leak in the mine and wondered why her son had been sent there.

“It’s downright a massacre, a massacre,” she said, inconsolable. “I call on our president, I call on Mr. Suleyman (Soylu, interior minister), punish them and God damn them,” she said, referring to the mine contractors.

A grieving relative of another miner who died told Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on a live broadcast on Saturday that there was a gas leak at the mine. Erdogan said earlier that the mine was the most advanced in Turkey and that the energy minister had inspected it only a month ago.

A 2019 report from Turkey’s Court of Accounts, shared by an opposition MP and some media, said there were ‘risks of serious accidents’ from firedamp explosions at a depth of 300 meters below sea level and urged the mine to follow gas call guidelines. the content was already high where samples were taken.

Friday’s explosion took place at this level. It’s unclear whether the mine followed the guidelines, but TTK said the claim was “completely false” and that the high methane readings referred to gas levels in the coal rather than the mine itself. .

Turkey’s deadliest mining disaster took place in 2014 when 301 coal miners died following an explosion in the western town of Soma.

“My only thought is the children. We cannot cry next to them,” said Elmas, Ayvaz’s aunt.

The sentiment was echoed by his brother, the eldest Ayvaz, who was trying to plan ahead.

“You have to get used to them. When they ask “where is my father” at 10 or 15, I will tell them. But until they ask me, I’ll just get them used to it.


Zeynep Bilginsoy reported from Istanbul.


An earlier version of this story has been corrected to show the energy minister’s last name is Donmez, not Durmaz.


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