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Several thousand demonstrators clashed with police in central Istanbul Wednesday to protest a mine disaster that killed at least 274 people, the country's worst mining accident ever.

Turkish police fired tear gas and water cannons to disperse the crowd in Taksim Square, Reuters reported.

"Government resign," the protesters chanted as they marched, before police sent them scattering away from the square.

Meanwhile, in the Turkish capital of Ankara, police and protesters also clashed over the coal mine accident in Soma, where more than 100 workers were still missing after a fire and explosion there.

Thousands more demonstrators were expected Wednesday night to flow into Taksim Square, which has been the site of protests since last year over construction of a shopping center.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Soma Wednesday, only to be booed after speaking about the mine.

"We as a nation of 77 million are experiencing a very great pain," he told a news conference after visiting the site.

But he became defensive when asked whether sufficient safety precautions had been in place at the mine.

"Explosions like this in these mines happen all the time. It's not like these don't happen elsewhere in the world," he said, listing mining accidents that had happened around the world since the 19th century.

Protesters shouted at Erdogan that he was a "murderer" and a "thief."

The accident put the spotlight on Turkey's poor safety standards: The nation was ranked third worst in the world for worker deaths in 2012 by the International Labor Organization, according to Reuters.

Reuters contributed to this report.

— Elizabeth Chuck