SOMA, Turkey (AP) — In the aftermath of a deadly explosion and fire in a Turkish coal mine, the mining company and Turkish officials are on the defensive.
At least 284 miners were killed. The country's energy minister says 18 others remain missing -- tamping down earlier fears that more than 100 victims were still in the mine.
The disaster has set off protests and public outrage at allegedly poor safety conditions at Turkish coal mines, and what some perceived as government indifference. One banner held by workers who marched through Istanbul yesterday read, "It's not an accident, it's murder."
But the owner of the mine where the disaster occurred is defending its safety record. He says he had spent his own money improving standards at the mine. And he says he hopes to continue operations at the mine after correcting any problems found by investigators.
Senior Turkish officials, meanwhile, are denying allegations of lax government oversight. A deputy leader of the ruling party says there are no problems with inspections and supervision of mines -- and that this mine was "vigorously" inspected 11 times in the past five years.
Turkey's energy minister says anyone who's found to have been negligent about safety at the mine will be punished.
122-c-20-(Desmond Butler, AP correspondent)-"protests in Istanbul"-AP correspondent Desmond Butler reports protests across Turkey are gaining momentum reminding many of the sometimes-violent anti-government protests that rocked Turkey in 2013. (16 May 2014)
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124-c-19-(Desmond Butler, AP correspondent)-"not clear yet"-AP correspondent Desmond Butler reports workers in the mine believe the mine's owners should have invested much more into safety measures. (16 May 2014)
<<CUT *124 (05/16/14)££ 00:19 "not clear yet"
GRAPHICSBANK: A woman prays at the grave of a victim of the mine accident, Soma, Turkey, graphic element on gray (16 May 2014)
APPHOTO ANK172: Family members pray during the funerals for the victims of the mine accident, in Soma, Turkey, Thursday, May 15, 2014. An explosion and fire at a coal mine in Soma, some 250 kilometers (155 miles) south of Istanbul, killed hundreds of workers, authorities said, in one of the worst mining disasters in Turkish history. (AP Photo/Emre Tazegul) (15 May 2014)
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APPHOTO ANK122: A Turkish miner listens to the mining company's owner, Alp Gurkan, during a news conference in Soma, Turkey, Friday, May 16, 2014. The Turkish mining company defended its safety record Friday, four days after over 250 people died in an underground blaze at its coal mine in western Turkey. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel) (16 May 2014)
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