Turkey mine death toll rises to 301
The bodies of the last two missing miners inside a coal mine in western Turkey have been located, raising the death toll to 301.
Energy minister Taner Yildiz said "our efforts will be coming to an end" but that crews "will be scouring all corners (of the mine) once again" to confirm the final death toll.
The announcement was made as police increased security in Soma to prevent new protests and detained lawyers who scuffled with police after objecting to identity checks, NTV television reported.
The lawyers had reportedly come to offer legal advice to the victims.
Mr Yildiz said 485 miners escaped or had been rescued.
Government and company officials have denied that negligence caused the disaster in the mine in Soma but opposition politicians have raised questions about possible lax oversight.
One miner who survived said safety inspectors never visited the lower reaches of the mine in Soma.
Yesterday, police used tear gas and water cannon to disperse rock-throwing protesters in Soma, where about 1,500 demonstrators urged Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government to resign.
In Istanbul, police forcefully broke up a crowd of about 150 people who lit candles and lined up mining helmets on the ground to honour the victims of the disaster, the DHA news agency reported.
Protesting workers have described the disaster as murder, not an accident, because of what they call flawed safety conditions at that mine and others in the country.
Erdal Bicak, 24, said he had just ended his shift on Tuesday and was making his way to the surface when mine managers ordered him back down because of a problem.
"The company is guilty," he said, adding that managers had machines that measure methane gas levels.
"The new gas levels had gotten too high and they didn't tell us in time."
The government has asked for a parliamentary inquiry into the disaster to find out what happened and why - but it appeared that officials had already made up their minds yesterday.
"There's no negligence with respect to this incident," insisted Huseyin Celik, a deputy leader of the ruling party. He said the mine in Soma "was inspected vigorously 11 times since 2009".
He added: "Let's learn from this pain and rectify our mistakes...(But) this is not the time to look for a scapegoat."
Mr Bicak, however, said the last inspection at the Soma mine was six months before the disaster. He said the inspectors only visit the top 100 yards of the mine and the managers knew that.
So, the managers would clean up the top part of the mine and the inspectors never saw what was below, he said.
The miner said the pathways are really narrow and steep down below, and the ceilings are so low miners cannot stand up, adding that is why it was so hard to get out.
But Akin Celik, the Soma mining company's operations manager, echoed the government's argument.
"There's no negligence with respect to this incident. We all worked with all our heart and soul. I have not seen anything like this in 20 years," he told reporters.
The question remains, however, of how the mine could have been checked so often and still have such a deadly fire.
The chief prosecutor in the nearby city of Akhisar said prosecutors had begun interviewing some of the injured miners and other witnesses.
Ozgur Ozel, an opposition politician from the Soma region, petitioned parliament in October to hold an inquiry into mine safety but the proposal was voted down.
He says there is a mine accident every three or four months in the Soma region and eleven workers have died in the last three years.
Mine inspections do take place but the owners are tipped off up to a week before, he alleged.
Mr Ozel's party has criticised the government for not adopting the International Labour Organisation's (ILO) convention on mine safety, widely regarded as the industry standard.
Joe Drexler, of the Global Union Federation, visited Turkey several times between 2008 and 2010 to urge government officials to ratify the ILO convention and improve health and safety in the country's mines.
"I have no doubt that this disaster could have been averted if this convention had been accepted," he said.
Funeral prayers were said in mosques throughout Turkey for the victims and football fans draped their team's scarves over some of the graves in Soma.
Mr Erdogan attended one such ceremony in Istanbul. The disaster could hurt his political ambitions - he has made no secret of his desire to run for president in the country's August election after serving as prime minister for the last 11 years.
President Barack Obama called Turkish President Abdullah Gul to convey condolences and offer assistance, the White House said.