Turkish leader says mine disasters are ‘usual things’

An aide to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan kicks a protester being held by special forces troops. (AP)
An aide to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan kicks a protester being held by special forces troops. (AP)

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, facing widespread protests over safety questions after a coal mine fire Tuesday killed nearly 300 miners, cited a string of similar accidents around the world to show “these are usual things.”

Erdogan told reporters Thursday that  the mine, in Soma, Turkey, was considered “one of the safest in Turkey,”according to a report in the Hurriyet Daily News.

By way of example, Erdogan cited deaths in mine collapses and explosions in England  that killed 204 people, another that killed 361 miners and a third  that killed 290 people.

Problem: These disasters occurred in 1838, 1866 and 1894. But Erdogan moved on to the 20th century, citing  accidents early in the last century in France and Japan. Hundreds were killed even in “America with all of its technology and everything,” he continued, pointing to a 1907 accident.

The recitation left reporters trying to figure out how any of that was relevant to mining in this century.

Meanwhile, protesters took to the streets, CNN reported, and some were greeted by tear gas and water cannons. The crowds doubtless got even angrier when Turkish media broadcast a photo of an aide to Erdogan kicking a protester who was lying on the ground after he was detained by special forces troops.

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993.
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Al Kamen · May 15, 2014