Explosion kills scores of Iranian coal miners
A large explosion on Wednesday at a coal mine in northern Iran killed at least 33 and trapped scores of miners.
“Unfortunately 33 miners who were trapped in the mine after the explosion have lost their lives,” Ilna news agency quoted Ali Rabii, Iran’s minister of labor and social welfare.
Rabii was speaking to reporters late on Wednesday night after visiting the Zemestan-Yort mine in Golestan province.
Many claim the casualties were as high as 60 but officials deny that.
The blast was reportedly due to workers jump-starting a locomotive engine by using an external battery.
A spark ignited accumulated methane gas which exploded some 1,200 meters beneath the surface of the ground, trapping scores of miners inside.
Images that went viral on social media showed frantic scenes at the opening of the mine as firefighters and the rescue team scrambled to attend to those injured. The remaining gas reportedly prevented firefighters from immediately reaching deeper areas in the tunnel.
“I carried two out of the mine,” one survivor told the state television. “It is not possible to go inside again. Oxygen tanks should be brought.”
“The gas in the mine exploded and my colleagues remained in the tunnel,” another miner said.
The incident has come at a critical time in Iran, where the 19 May presidential election is approaching.
The six approved candidates, among them the country’s current president, Hassan Rouhani, and his first deputy, Eshaq Jahangiri, were busy on the campaign trail.
Up to 500 miners are employed by the Zemestan-Yort mine, which is 14 kilometers from Azarshahr. The Golestan province is on the Caspian Sea.