In pictures: Soma three months on
“At the cemetery just outside town, 41 graves are lined up in two neat rows, all of them decorated with Turkish flags, hardhats and ribbons. An elderly woman arrives with her two sons. The third, Ramazan, died in the mine on 13th May. At his grave she breaks down, wailing inconsolably. ‘Keep your filthy money,’ she says to no one in particular. ‘You cannot bring my son back to me!'”
This is the cemetery just outside of Soma, Turkey. On 13th May, an explosion tore through a mine in the town, killing 301 men. Three months after Turkey’s worst ever industrial incident, journalist Constanze Letsch and photographer Guy Martin returned to Soma and documented how residents coped with the fallout. We selected three of the most powerful pictures from the feature they wrote about their visit for Delayed Gratification #15.
“Musa Çakmak, 42, is the owner of the teahouse in the nearby town of Savastepe and one of the founding members of the local coal miners’ association. He worked as a miner for three years until 2003, when severe lung problems forced him to quit.
On a noticeboard behind him are pictures of the 34 miners from Savastepe who were killed in the incident. ‘This man had already retired,’ Çakmak explains, pointing at one photograph. ‘He still went down there every day because he needed the money to feed his family.’ His finger hovers over a picture of a young man. ‘He married a week before the accident. One week!'”
“The concern that Soma might soon be forgotten is being voiced everywhere. In a municipal sports complex not far from the café, two civil servants oversee a range of donations made by individuals and organisations from all over the country as well from abroad.
‘All of that stuff over there comes from Germany!’ one of them says, pointing at a stack of crates in one corner. ‘This is only the rest of what is left,’ he adds, somewhat disheartened. ‘A few weeks ago the whole sports hall was filled to the roof. Things have slowed down.’
‘Families of miners who died are allowed to come as often as they wish and take what they need,’ the municipal official explains. ‘Survivors are allowed one visit each.’ While he speaks an unemployed miner walks in. He has already picked up some items before and is uncomfortable at having to ask for handouts. ‘You’re only allowed one ration,’ the official says apologetically. ‘We have your name in the computer. Sorry.’ The man leaves, empty-handed.”
Slow Journalism in your inbox, plus infographics, offers and more: sign up for the DG newsletter.
Thanks for signing up.