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Mining manager among 24 detained over alleged responsibility for Turkey blast

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A manager was among 24 people detained by police due to their alleged responsibility for a mine disaster in northwestern Bartın province that killed 41 earlier in October, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported on Thursday.

A methane blast that ripped through the mine near the small coal town of Amasra on Turkey’s Black Sea coast, which was operated by the state-owned Turkish Hard Coal Enterprises (TTK), claimed the lives of 41 miners and injured 11 more on Oct. 14.

The detentions came as part of an investigation carried out by the Bartın Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, which said in a written statement that they issued warrants for a total of 25 people in connection with the disaster on Thursday.

According to Anadolu, among the detainees were Cihat Özdemir, manager of the mine operated by the TTK in Amasra, in addition to the mine’s deputy managers, business manager, personnel manager, chief engineer and engineers responsible for the use of aspirators, cartage, drilling and occupational safety.

One of the miners, whose testimony was taken within the scope of the investigation, stated that the workers hired in 2019 were immediately promoted to replace more experienced miners. It was determined in the 2020 report released by the Turkish Court of Accounts that occupational accidents increased in the mine after the recruitment of workers in 2019.

The 2019 and 2020 reports of the court also found that there was an insufficient number of miners in Amasra and that it reduced production, labor productivity and occupational safety. The court had also warned the TTK on the issue, according to Turkish media reports.

Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) came under fire following the disaster due to its failure to prioritize the safety of workers and for portraying a preventable accident as “fate.”

Work accidents are common in Turkey, where economic development can ride roughshod over safety concerns, particularly in the construction and mining industries. The country has recorded 1,898 mining fatalities since the AKP came to power in November 2002, according to data from the Health and Safety Labor Watch (İSİG).

Turkey suffered its deadliest coal mining disaster in 2014 when 301 workers died in a blast and ensuing fire that brought down a mining shaft in the western town of Soma. Five mine managers were found guilty of negligence and sentenced to up to 22 years in prison.

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