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  • 15 May 2014, 9:41

First Funerals Held For Dead Turkish Miners

Relatives of those killed in the Turkey's worst ever mining disaster have started burying their loved-ones amid growing anger in the country about dangerous conditions underground.

Hopes are fading of finding alive any of the estimated 150 miners still feared trapped, with the last survivor brought out more than 24 hours ago.

Emergency workers have been fighting fire and toxic fumes in their frantic search.

At least 282 workers have been confirmed dead in the underground explosion, and this number is expected to rise.

Scores of grave have been prepared to bury the dead close to the scene of the disaster in Soma, some 155 miles (250km) south of Istanbul.

It comes as security was tightened at the site ahead of a visit of the country's President Abdullah Gul, with officials anxious to avoid a repeat of the anger which greeted Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday, when his car was attacked by protesters.

Miners are holding a strike in protest at the disaster in the face of mounting fury over poor industry safety standards.

The major accident has also become a focal point of wider dissent against the ruling administration, which has been in power for 11 years, with violent clashes in Istanbul and the capital Ankara.

The government said 787 people were inside the coal mine at the time of the explosion, and 363 have been rescued including many who were injured.

But some families have cast doubt on the official figures.

Those still trapped are thought to be some 1.2 miles (2km) below the surface and 2.5 miles (4km) from the mine entrance.

As thousands of anxious relatives waited for news of Turkey's worst mining disaster, Mr Erdogan was accused of ignoring warnings over safety at the coal pit.

A convoy containing his car was attacked by crowds and he was forced to seek refuge in a supermarket, surrounded by police.

With feelings running high, protesters shouted for him to resign and said he was a "murderer" and a "thief".

And Mr Erdogan's attempt to downplay the disaster at a news conference did little to defuse tensions.

He said accidents happened in other countries and even pointed to cases in 19th century Britain.

Mr Erdogan said: "These types of things in mines happen all the time.

"It's in its nature. It's not possible for there to be no accidents in mines. Of course we were deeply pained by the extent here."

He declared three days of national mourning and ordered flags to be lowered to half-mast.

The public backlash over the disaster could threaten Mr Erdogan's presidential ambitions ahead of the August election.

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