Report: 18 detained in Turkish mine disaster probe

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Riot police use water cannons and teargas to disperse people who were protesting the Soma mine accident that killed 301 miners, in Istanbul, Turkey, Saturday, May 17, 2014. Turkey’s Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said Saturday that crews had found more bodies overnight, raising the death toll to 301. An explosion and fire at a coal mine in Soma, some 250 kilometers (155 miles) south of Istanbul, killed hundreds of workers in one of the worst mining disasters in Turkish history. (AP Photo

Riot police use water cannons and teargas to disperse people who were protesting the Soma mine accident that killed 301 miners, in Istanbul, Turkey, Saturday, May 17, 2014. Turkey’s Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said Saturday that crews had found more bodies overnight, raising the death toll to 301. An explosion and fire at a coal mine in Soma, some 250 kilometers (155 miles) south of Istanbul, killed hundreds of workers in one of the worst mining disasters in Turkish history. (AP Photo

Riot police use water cannons and teargas to disperse people who were protesting the Soma mine accident that killed 301 miners, in Istanbul, Turkey, Saturday, May 17, 2014. Turkey’s Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said Saturday that crews had found more bodies overnight, raising the death toll to 301. An explosion and fire at a coal mine in Soma, some 250 kilometers (155 miles) south of Istanbul, killed hundreds of workers in one of the worst mining disasters in Turkish history. (AP Photo

A Turkish miner at the entrance of the coal mine in Soma, Turkey, early Saturday, May 17, 2014. Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said Saturday that crews had found more bodies overnight, raising the death toll to 301, but a new fire was hampering efforts to reach the one or two workers still missing. He said 485 miners escaped or were rescued.(AP Photo/Emre Tazegul)

Riot police detain a protester as they use water cannons and teargas to disperse people who were protesting the Soma mine accident that killed 301 miners, in Istanbul, Turkey, Saturday, May 17, 2014. Turkey’s Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said Saturday that crews had found more bodies overnight, raising the death toll to 301. An explosion and fire at a coal mine in Soma, some 250 kilometers (155 miles) south of Istanbul, killed hundreds of workers in one of the worst mining disasters in Turkish history. (AP Photo

Riot police detain a protester as they use water cannons and teargas to disperse people who were protesting the Soma mine accident that killed 301 miners, in Istanbul, Turkey, Saturday, May 17, 2014. Turkey’s Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said Saturday that crews had found more bodies overnight, raising the death toll to 301. An explosion and fire at a coal mine in Soma, some 250 kilometers (155 miles) south of Istanbul, killed hundreds of workers in one of the worst mining disasters in Turkish history. (AP Photo

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ISTANBUL (AP) — Eighteen people, including company executives, have been detained as Turkish officials investigate the mining disaster that killed 301 people, a domestic news agency reported Sunday.

The Dogan news agency said Ramazan Dogru, general manager of the mine owned by Soma Holding, and its operations manager, Akin Celik, were among those detained. It said prosecutors were questioning five people Sunday but did not specify whom.

Government and company officials have insisted that the mine was inspected regularly and negligence was not a factor. But reacting to widespread public anger, government officials promised to investigate and pledged that any mine officials found to be negligent would be punished.

The Milliyet newspaper said Saturday that a preliminary report by a mine safety expert who inspected the Soma mine suggested that smoldering coal caused the mine’s roof to collapse. The report said the tunnel’s support beams were made of wood, not metal, and the mine had too few carbon monoxide sensors.

Company officials have described safety standards as high, noting that the mine contained 50 gas sensors and employees were provided gas masks.

At a press conference Friday, Celik said thick smoke from the underground fire killed many miners who were not carrying gas masks. Rescue workers entering the mine complained of high levels of carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide.

“There is no negligence,” Celik said. “I have been doing this job for 20 years but I have never seen anything like this. We would not want harm to come to a single fingernail of our workers.”

On Saturday, Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said rescue workers retrieved the bodies of the last two miners missing in the disaster, putting the death toll at 301. Authorities then sealed the mine entrance with bricks.

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Follow Desmond Butler at http://twitter.com/desmondbutler

Associated Press

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