Turkey

Turkish Mine Disaster: Gas Masks Were Old, Cheap, Made In China

With more than 300 dead, survivors of last week's Soma mine disaster in Turkey say their gas masks were useless. Turns out they were 20-year-old dirt cheap models. All apparently legal.

Recuers wait outside the entrance of the Soma mine on May 15.
Recuers wait outside the entrance of the Soma mine on May 15.
Fatih Yagmur

ISTANBUL — Every miner who survived last week's Soma tragedy said their gas masks did not work properly. Most reported that oxygen ran out after 10 minutes instead of the 45 minutes it was supposed to last.

After the masks were shown to the press, it was revealed that they were cheap Chinese-made products issued in 1993. Experts say modern masks can provide 120 minutes of oxygen, and it is indeed a miracle that these ones even worked at all. The Chinese products are sold for $30 — as low as $17 with bulk orders. Professional miner masks produced in the U.S. and Europe are priced $345 and up.

An executive from a company that sells gas masks to mining businesses told Radikal that the Chinese products have virtually no use at all beyond providing (false) psychological comfort. Modern masks, on the other hand, can help a person breathe for 75 minutes if sitting still.

“There should be at least 17% oxygen in the environment for these Chinese-made masks to work. The carbon monoxide in the environment should be 1.5% maximum," said the gas mask executive. "It will do no good in environments with more than 1.5% carbon monoxide present, like in Soma.”

The executive said the related laws unfortunately allow the cheap masks to be used. At the same time, miners have stated that money is deducted from their salaries if they use the masks when it is unnecessary.

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