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News Wrap: Anger grows as death toll skyrockets from Turkish coal mine collapse

May 14, 2014 at 6:02 PM EST
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GWEN IFILL: The death toll kept rising today in the coal mine disaster in Turkey, and so did the anger. At least 274 miners were confirmed dead, with up to 150 others possibly trapped, after yesterday’s explosion and fire.

Dan Rivers of Independent Television News filed this report from the scene.

DAN RIVERS, ITN: Grief is slowly replacing hope in Soma. Each emerging stretcher bears a miner and the faith of a family.

For more than 24 hours, this harrowing scene has played out, wives straining to see the face of each man, some recoiling in horror at what it means. The brothers and friends of those missing scream in frustration, their anger barely contained.

This pitiful suffering has gone on for more than 36 hours, and still the number of missing, dead and injured is unclear. CCTV inside the mine shows the thick smoke created after a power transformer exploded, halting the lifts and starting a fire from which few have escaped.

The Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, visited the mine today, declaring three days of national mourning. But, in the town of Soma, a furious crowd of young people chant for the government to resign.

The scale of the despair and grief here in Soma is staggering. There are hundreds of families gathered here at the hospital desperately waiting for news, and with the arrival of each ambulance, there is a building sense of dread.

We find Diyagor nearby, cradling her 18-month-old son, Ismail, her other baby held by a relative, their dad, Uchalak never came home from the mine. The family has been waiting for news here since yesterday.

She says: “May God save him for my babies. We are burning inside. Waiting for 36 hours is not easy, not knowing if he is dead or alive.”

The man’s mother has also been keeping vigil here. She says: “I am waiting, telling to my son to come home. Your kids are waiting here for you. You have to come back for them.”

But so far, he, like the others, remains missing, in a disaster that has consumed not only individual families, but an entire community.

GWEN IFILL: Mining accidents and poor safety conditions are common in Turkey. After a fatal 2010 accident, Prime Minister Erdogan said the risk came with being a miner. Today, he promised this latest tragedy will be investigated to the smallest detail.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Brushfires swept across part of Southern California today, consuming homes and prompting evacuation orders to more than 11,000 homes and businesses. Flames destroyed at least 30 homes in Carlsbad and other fires. They sent black smoke plumes shooting high in the air across San Diego County.

The president of Nigeria today rejected any exchange of jailed militants for 276 schoolgirls held by Boko Haram. The head of the Islamist group had offered that swap on Monday. Meanwhile, people in a northern village said vigilantes prevented a new attack yesterday, killing scores of militants and detaining others.

GWEN IFILL: In Ukraine, the government in Kiev opened talks today aimed at granting more autonomy to eastern regions. The roundtable is part of a European-backed peace plan and involves political and civic leaders.

But pro-Russian insurgents in the east were not invited, raising questions about whether the talks will do any good.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program entered a critical phase today. Officials from the U.S. and five other world powers met with Iranian officials in Vienna. They’re trying to reach a long-term agreement on curbing Iran’s nuclear activities by July 20.

Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel visited Saudi Arabia, and promised the U.S. will not trade Saudi security for Iranian concessions.

CHUCK HAGEL, Secretary of Defense: We will continue to consult closely, closely with you as these negotiations progress, as I am here today. We will continue to hold Iran accountable for its destabilizing activities across the region. And we will continue working closely with all of our friends and partners in the Gulf to reinforce their defenses against these destabilizing activities.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The U.S. and the other powers are pressing Iran to make dramatic reductions in its uranium enrichment. Iran is demanding an end to all sanctions against its economy.

GWEN IFILL: The World Health Organization warned today of rising concerns about the deadly Middle East Respiratory Syndrome known as MERS. The agency said the outbreak of the flu-like illness is not yet a global emergency. But more than 500 cases have been reported worldwide, including two in the U.S. Health workers who had contact with a MERS patient in Orlando, Florida, have tested negative.

JUDY WOODRUFF: On Wall Street, stocks tumbled a day after hitting all-time highs. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 101 points to close below 16,614. The Nasdaq fell 29 points to close at 4,100. And the S&P 500 was down nearly nine points at 1,888.