SAVASTEPE, Turkey — Government and company officials denied Friday that negligence caused Turkey's worst mining disaster, as opposition lawmakers raised questions about oversight and a survivor said safety inspectors never visited the lower reaches of the mine.
Anger continued to surge after the coal mine inferno in Soma. On Friday, police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse protesters in Soma, where about 1,500 demonstrators urged Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government to resign.
In Istanbul, police broke up a crowd of about 150 who lit candles and lined up mining helmets on the ground to honor victims, the DHA news agency reported.
Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said 298 people died in Tuesday's tragedy. Two or three people are still believed to be missing; 485 miners escaped or were rescued.
Protesting workers have described the disaster as murder because of what they call flawed safety conditions.
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 Friday.
"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."
But mine worker Erdal Bicak, 24, said inspectors would visit only the top 100 meters of the mine. Managers would clean up the top part of the mine, and inspectors never saw what was below that, he said.