Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has cited centuries-old examples to defend his government over its mining record, pointing to a mine accident in Britain in 1838 during a press conference after the Soma disaster on May 14.
“I went back in British history. Some 204 people died there after a mine collapsed in 1838. In 1866, 361 miners died in Britain. In an explosion in 1894, 290 people died there,” Erdoğan said on a visit to the grieving town of Soma, while choosing not to elaborate on how accidents in 19th-century Britain might be applicable to Soma’s unfolding disaster.
“Take America with all of its technology and everything … In 1907, 361 [miners died there],” he added. “These are usual things.”
The prime minister also cited examples of early 20th century mine accidents in France and Japan. “In 1942, 1,549 miners died in China due to a mixture of gas and coal,” Erdoğan said. “Can you believe it?” he asked journalists in reference to the numbers, rather than queries over his unorthodox understanding of logic.
Erdoğan vowed that the government would investigate the accident thoroughly, but emphasized that the Soma mine was seen as “one of the safest in Turkey.”
While thanking the opposition parties and the media for their “non-partisan” response to the national tragedy, he also reprimanded an Al-Jazeera journalist for asking why the mining company was allowed to operate.
“As a journalist, I believe that you don’t follow closely how coal mines work around the world. It may be because there are natural gas reserves, but not coal mines in Qatar,” Erdoğan said, before giving a long answer describing the history of mine accidents in Turkey, starting from 1942 when the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) was in power.
Some 120 people are still thought to be in the mine, Erdoğan added.