Toronto's Turkish community rallies for Soma mining disaster victims

Toronto’s Turkish community rallied together on Sunday to fund raise for victims of the Soma mining disaster.

'There are no men left in that town, so we need to help those families,' said one volunteer

Toronto's Turkish community held a fundraiser on Saturday for the hundreds of families who lost loved ones when an explosion killed 301 coal miners in the town of Soma, Turkey, last week. (CBC)

Toronto’s Turkish community rallied together on Sunday to fund raise for victims of the Soma mining disaster.

More than 300 people were killed after an explosion ripped through a coal mine in the town of Soma, Turkey, on May 13, causing a fire that burned for two days until emergency crews were able to extinguish the blaze.

Earlier today, rescuers recovered the bodies of the last missing miners.

“We’re trying to collect money to help those who lost their fathers, sons, brothers and uncles,” said Elvan Amasya.

“There are no men left in that town, so we need to help those families.”

A crowd of volunteers, many wearing the yellow hard hats and black shirts associated with the mining industry in Turkey, gathered at a shopping plaza near Dufferin Street and Lawrence Avenue to sell homemade kabobs and gather donations.

“The community is very saddened by the events in Soma. We wanted to organize an event where people could come, share their pain, express their condolences to the families in Turkey and fund raise,” said Deniz Berrak-Coskun.

“Any funds that we can send to the families there -- for education for their children, for any supplies they need, because they’re many of the miners were sole family providers – we’re going to do anything we can to get that money to them to help them out,” she told CBC News.

In the wake of the explosion, which Turkey’s energy minister called “the worst industrial accident in the country’s history,” many have accused the Turkish government of negligence.

On April 29, a motion was introduced by one of Turkey’s opposition parties that would have compelled the government to review safety standards at the particular mine where the tragedy occurred. The motion was dismissed.

Thousands of people have taken to the streets in protest in Soma, Istanbul and Ankara – the nation’s capital city – clashing with riot police and demanding that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan resign from his post.

'The eerie silence'

Yasin Kaya, who attended the fundraising event today, recalled a similar disaster in 1992 when a gas explosion killed 263 miners. He was living in Turkey at the time, and says his memories of that experience resurfaced when he heard the tragic news last week.

“I remember the eerie silence when the rescue teams were bringing out the dead bodies,” Kaya said. “I remember that like it was yesterday.”

According to Kaya, mining safety standards in Turkey have not improved in the more than 20 years since the 1992 disaster. He hopes Canada will join a growing international chorus calling for Turkey to review its safety protocol in rural mines that dot the country’s landscape.

“The Canadian government should pressure Turkey, and make them sign the international agreements about safety standards in mines.”

Organizers of the event said they hoped to raise around $2,000 on Saturday.