Managers of Soma coal mine denied claims of negligence in the blast that killed 284 workers so far
SOMA - Soma coal mine managers denied claims of negligence, in a press conference on Friday, stating the cause for the fire was still unknown while insisting they took all necessary measures to prevent the incident that caused 284 fatalities so far.
Soma Holding President Alp Gurkan, coal mine General Manager Ramazan Dogru, operating manager Akin Celik and Human resources director Celalettin Gokasan said that 18 workers at most were still in the mine as they replied to journalists' questions in Soma on Friday.
General Manager Dogru said the fire was not caused by an electrical fault in the power distribution unit, as initially thought.
- "No negligence"
"There was no negligence, operating manager Akin Celik said. The focus so far has been on rescuing the workers, we haven't found out yet how the fire started."
"I might resign if needed," Celik added however.
He added that the exit was 350 meters from where the workers were, but they could not reach it as the smoke reduced visibility to only one meter.
Celik also dismissed the allegations that the fire broke out during a shift change. "If so, the death toll would be higher," he said.
He insisted that there were rescue chambers in the mine but that the problem truly lay in the fact that the incident occurred within three to five minutes.
"When we bought the mine, there were two 500-person capacity chambers, he said. We divided them in two. The first chamber called "Panel S" lost its relevance as the work moved away from it. But "Panel A" remained."
Human Resources Director Celalettin Gokasan stated miners entered the workplace with magnetic cards and confirmed that 787 people were inside the mine.
Pressed further on the issue, Soma Holding President Alp Gurkan admitted the remaining chamber was under repair.
"The building of a rescue chamber in the Soma mine would have caused more worker fatalities," he added.
Celik also dismissed recent claims of the mining company resorting to contracted labor. "All our 2,941 workers are regular staff, not contracted," he said, adding that there were no underage workers in the mine, the youngest one being 18 and a half years old.
Soma Holding President Alp Gurkan pledged for charity for the victims' families.
"I am also suffering because the miners were friends, he said. But we have taken all legal measures at the highest level."
He added that they would continue operating the mine, unless authorities decided otherwise at the end of the investigation.
When once again asked about possibility of negligence, he replied: "My general manager Ramazan Dogru and operating manager Akin Celik told me there is no negligence. I haven't been to the mine. As far as I see, it is an accident. The truth will come out when investigations end."
787 workers were inside the mine when fire broke out.
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