SOMA, Turkey, May 16 (Xinhua) -- Turkish police on Friday dispersed protesters who were demanding compensation for nearly 300 miners killed in Tuesday's coal mine explosion in the western town of Soma.
An eyewitness said that clashes broke out as police used tear gas, water cannon and plastic bullets to disperse demonstrators who chanted anti-government slogans in Soma, about 480 km southeast of Istanbul.
Angry young protesters first marched to a hospital in the town and then responded with stones when intervened by riot police.
Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said on Friday that the death toll from the Soma mine fire disaster had reached 284, most of who died of carbon monoxide poisoning. He added that the number may reach 300 as 18 miners are still unaccounted for but are believed to be in the Soma mine when the tragedy befell.
The mine's operator Soma Komur has denied any allegations of negligence, saying they had all worked very hard and not seen such an incident in 20 years.
The disaster has triggered nationwide protests against the government in the past three days.
Hundreds of women have staged a protest in Istanbul demanding the government to step down. The Republic Women Association also charged that the government should bear the responsibility for those who were killed in the coal mine blast.
Turkey has announced a three-day mourning period for the victims.
Turkey currently has some 740 coal mines and more than 48,000 miners. Mine accidents in the country have killed over 3,000 people and injured more than 100,000 since 1941. Nearly one in every ten accidents at work occurs in those mines.