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Police reports reveal negligence in mine explosion in northwest Turkey

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Police reports on a mine blast in northwestern Bartın province that killed 42 people last month have exposed negligence on the part of the relevant authorities in the disaster, the ANKA news agency reported on Wednesday.

A methane explosion that ripped through the mine near the small coal town of Amasra on Turkey’s Black Sea coast, operated by the state-owned Turkish Hard Coal Enterprises (TTK), claimed the lives of 42 miners on Oct. 14.

According to ANKA, reports prepared by three police officers on Oct. 19 show that methane and carbon monoxide levels in the mine and the levels measured by its ventilation system had been rising to alarming levels since the early hours of the day of the disaster.

The methane gas levels in the mine rose above the “warning level” 85 times and the “alarm level” five times on Oct. 14, according to the reports, which also showed that the levels measured by the ventilation system exceeded the same levels 53 and 355 times, respectively, between 11.43 p.m. on Oct. 13 and 6.49 p.m. on Oct. 14.

The “warning level” for methane gas is above 1 percent, while the “alarm level” is above 1.5 percent, according to ANKA.

The police reports further showed that carbon monoxide in the mine also rose above the “warning level” of 225 ppm 47 times and the “alarm level” of 50 ppm 13 times on the day of the blast.

In late October, 24 people were detained due to their alleged responsibility for the disaster as part of an investigation carried out by the Bartın Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office. Eight of the detainees, including Cihat Özdemir, manager of the mine operated by the TTK in Amasra, were later arrested.

One of the miners, whose testimony was taken as part of the investigation, previously 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 court reports 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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