Turkey mine disaster: Elmadere mourns lost miners

Birjan Yildarim and her seven-month-old son
Image caption Birjan Yildarim lost her husband and the father of her three children

Mother-of-three Birjan Yildarim lost her husband to Turkey's worst mining disaster.

Doan Yildarim was one of 11 men from Elmadere, a western village of just 80 families, who was killed in the now infamous Soma mine.

"It is like torture for me," she says of her grief.

At a crowded and chaotic news conference on Friday, the company Soma Holding - which runs the mine - denied negligence and claims that its safety procedures were inadequate.

Birjan disagrees. "There were no safety measures," she says.

Just off the village's main square, where a support van sent by the local authorities now hands out free drinks and food, we meet miner Nissim Yildarim. Eight of his relatives died deep underground.

Brandishing his Soma Holding identification card, Nissim claims the miners' gas masks were not checked regularly enough, and says that in all three mines near the village there were no safety chambers.

A safety chamber is an area of a mine where the miners can take refuge in an emergency and theoretically survive for a long period of time. At Friday's press conference, Soma Holding initially claimed the mine did have a safety chamber - but later admitted that it was no longer in use.

Nissim also directs his anger towards the Turkish authorities.

"We are angry because there was no regulation before," he says. "Sometimes they came to inspect the mine, but they just came to the entrance, they never went down to see where we work."

Image caption Nissim Yildarim lost eight of his relatives in the disaster

Soma Holding has promised a thorough investigation into Tuesday's disaster which, according to official government statistics, has claimed the lives of nearly 300 people.

However, many people living near the mine say that number could be much higher.

Ozgur, who did not want to give his surname, lost his brother-in-law.

He went to the mine to find him after the accident and saw "tonnes of bodies".

He says some bodies were taken to a local slaughterhouse because the huge frozen food stores that had been used to store bodies were full.

Turkey's government says the Soma mine was last inspected in March and there were 11 inspections there in the past five years.

Soma Holding described the mine as "organised" and "trustworthy".

But the cause of the fire that triggered the disaster is still not clear.

In the now grief-stricken village of Elmadere, many feel that this tragedy could have been avoided.

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