Saturday, 17 May 2014

Mining disasters

The death toll in the mining disaster at Soma in Western Turkey has now passed 300, and the energy minister has said there may be more bodies to be recovered. 485 miners are reported to have escaped or been rescued.

Police had to use tear gas and water cannon to disperse protesters complaining about safety standards and demanding that the government resign. Lawyers who came to advise victims’ families have been detained.

One survivor claimed inspectors never visited the lower reaches of the mine, but the government said it had been inspected ‘vigorously’ 11 times since 2009. A report in 2010 said the Turkish mining industry had the highest death rate in the world per million tons of coal extracted – 5 times the figure for China, and 360 times that for the United States.

The deadliest mining disaster in history happened on 26 April, 1942 at Honkeiko in the Manchuria region of China, while it was under Japanese occupation. 1,549 miners perished after an explosion, and the Japanese were heavily criticised for closing down the ventilation system and sealing the pithead, condemning many of the victims to death by suffocation.

*Review of the Romanian edition of A Disastrous History of the World. 

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