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Trade unions in Turkey are holding a one-day strike in protest at the country's worst ever mine disaster, which has claimed at least 282 lives.

Thousands have taken to the streets in cities across the country; clashes are reported to have broken out in Izmir.

Meanwhile, President Abdullah Gul is visiting the scene of the disaster, as Turkey begins three days of mourning.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was booed and jostled by angry protesters during his visit to Soma on Wednesday.

Anger also erupted against the government in several cities around the country.

Small protests

Several unions are reportedly taking part in the 24-hour strike, and blame the privatisation of the mining sector for making working conditions more dangerous.

Some 3,000 people have begun gathering in the Turkish capital, Ankara, to march on the labour ministry, the BBC's Turkish Service reports. Protests have also begun in Istanbul.

Police fired tear gas and water cannon on some 20,000 people who took to the streets in the western city of Izmir, the Hurriyet Daily News reports. A union boss in the city was said to have been hospitalised.

"Those who pursue privatisation... policies, who threaten workers' lives to reduce cost... are the culprits of the Soma massacre and they must be held accountable," said the Public Workers Unions Confederation.

Rescue efforts continue at the mine in Soma but there is little hope of finding anyone else alive.

Eight bodies were recovered overnight, bringing the death toll to 282. Around 150 miners remain missing.

President Gul called on Turks to be "unified... to get over these hard times" during his visit to Soma. He was speaking after meeting injured miners in hospital and touring the scene of the disaster.

His visit was met by protests but it was not the same level of tension that greeted the prime minister on Wednesday, the BBC's Selin Girit reports from Soma.

Scuffles broke out during Prime Minister Erdogan's visit. People booed him and kicked his car, calling for his resignation. He was forced to seek refuge in a shop at one stage. The town's ruling AK party offices were also attacked.

However, it was Mr Erdogan's aide, Yusuf Yerkel, who made headlines on Thursday when photos emerged of him appearing to kick a protester in Soma.

In the capital, Ankara, on Wednesday, police fired tear gas and water cannon at about 800 protesters who tried to march on the energy ministry. Water cannon was also used in Istanbul to disperse protesters in the main shopping street Istiklal.

Mr Erdogan has been criticised for being insensitive in his reaction to the disaster, after he cited numerous mining accidents throughout the world, including in Britain in the 19th Century, in defending the Turkish government's record.

He said every effort would be made to find the missing miners, and promised a full investigation.

Power cut

The Soma mine was privatised in 2005.

The government has been accused of rejecting a recent proposal for a parliamentary inquiry into mine accidents in the area, although officials say the Soma mine was subject to regular inspections, most recently in March.

An electrical fault triggered the blast soon after midday on Tuesday, while 787 miners were underground, some 2km (1.2 miles) below the surface and 4km from the mine entrance.

The resulting power cut made the mine cages unusable. Many of them died of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Government officials said 363 miners were rescued in the hours after the explosion, but no survivors have been brought out since dawn on Wednesday.

Turkey's worst mining disaster until now was in 1992, when 263 miners were killed near Zonguldak, on the Black Sea.

Coal mining is a major industry in the Soma area, helping to supply a nearby lignite-fired thermal power plant, but safety has long been a concern. Nearly 40% of Turkey's electricity production depends on coal.


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