Turkey’s president has been criticised for linking the deaths of 41 miners in an explosion to “destiny”, saying such accidents “will always be”.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s comments triggered protests in Istanbul, with some describing the accident in northern Turkey as “a massacre”.
Relatives of the dead claim they reported being able to smell gas for more than a week.
Friday’s blast at the facility on the Black Sea also left 28 injured.
Mr Erdogan made the remarks during a visit to the site in Bartin province on Saturday.
“We are people who believe in the plan of destiny,” he told reporters, as he was surrounded by rescue workers. Such accidents “will always be, we need to know that too”, he added.
However, he added that he did’nt want to see “deficiencies or unneccesary risks”, according to Euronews. But the comment angered many. Opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu demanded to know “in which century we are living?”. “Why [do] the mine accidents happen only in Turkey?” he said.
Emin Koramaz, who leads the Union of Chambers of Turkish Engineers and Architects, dismissed the idea the blast could be described as an accident, alleging on Twitter that the miners had been sent “hundreds of metres underground without taking the necessary precautions, without inspection and without creating safe conditions”.
The official cause of the blast is not yet known. Authorities said Turkish prosecutors have launched an investigation into the cause of the explosion, with preliminary findings suggesting it was caused by firedamp, a term referring to methane forming an explosive mixture in coal mines.
Angry families suspect gas may have played a role. The father of a man in his early 20s who died in the explosion told Pakistan’s Associated Press that his son had also reported smelling gas for 10 days.
In the village of Makaraci, which lost four men, a tearful woman told Mr Erdogan at her brother’s funeral: “President, my brother knew, he said there was a gas leak 10, 15 days ago. He said ‘they will explode us soon’. How come it’s negligence? He said ‘they will explode us here’… He knew it.” According to news agency AFP, after a moment of silence, Mr Erdogan replied: “Sorry for your loss, may Allah give patience.”
Around 110 people were in the mine at the time of Friday’s blast, almost half of them at more than 300m (984ft) deep. Some 58 people working in the mine when the blast went off were rescued or got out by themselves. The mine belongs to the state-owned Turkish Hard Coal Enterprises.
Turkey witnessed its deadliest coal mining disaster in 2014, when 301 people died after a blast in the western town of Soma.