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Turkey fires tear gas at Istanbul airport workers: report

The new airport is due to be opened in October [Getty]

Date of publication: 14 September, 2018

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Workers at the site of Istanbul's new airport, who were protesting working conditions at the site, were dispersed by government security forces using tear gas on Friday.

Turkish security forces fired tear gas at construction workers at Istanbul's new airport who were protesting dangerous working conditions at the site as it prepares to open for business next month, local media reported on Friday.

Hundreds of workers have gone on strike to protest working conditions at the site, where 13 people have so far died during the construction process, the private DHA news agency reported. 

A group of them gathered on Friday, but the security forces dispersed them using tear gas. 

There was no immediate reaction from a government official. 

The new airport is one of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's ambitious new projects for the sprawling metropolis.

Located on the Black Sea, it will initially have capacity to handle around 90 million passengers per year, but that number is expected to rise to 150 million by 2023. 

To publicise the project, Erdogan's plane landed there in June just days before the presidential election. 

Nevertheless, there have been reports of a large number of deaths at the construction site where some 35,000 people are working round-the-clock to finish it on time for the inauguration at the end of October.

Erdogan also hopes to create a Panama-style canal in Istanbul to take the pressure off the Bosphorus, one of the world's busiest shipping lanes.

Istanbul's existing main airport, named after modern Turkey's secular founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and one of the busiest in Europe, will be shut to commercial traffic once the new airport opens.

Erdogan has pledged to turn the current Ataturk Airport into a vast urban park bigger than Central Park in New York or Hyde Park in London.

The day the new airport opens "we will start the process of transforming Ataturk Airport into a park for the nation," he said.

Erdogan has previously indicated he would prefer not have the new airport named after Ataturk, however it is not yet clear what the new airport will be named. Supporters have argued that the airport should carry Erdogan's name. 

The new airport located on the Black Sea coast is 35 kilometres (22 miles) away from the city centre, raising concerns about transport access.

But authorities say a new metro line will be built to reach the airport from the city centre in just 25 minutes.

It will have six runways and Erdogan said it would initially have a capacity of 90 million passengers rising to 150 million by 2023.

There have been major concerns over reports of a high fatality rate at the airport's construction site, where some 35,000 people are working round-the-clock to finish it on time.

Transport Minister Ahmet Arslan said in April that over the course of construction 13 workers had died due to work-related accidents and 14 for reasons not related to work.

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