Coal mine explosion kills 35 and injures dozens
An explosion in a coal mine in northern Iran yesterday killed at least 35 workers and injured scores, state media reported.
The blast occurred at 12.45pm local time in the Zemestanyurt mine when workers tried to jump-start a locomotive.
Ali Rabiei, cooperatives, labour and social welfare minister, was quoted as saying by semi-official Tasnim news agency that 35 miners died in the incident.
Iranian media said more than 30 of the injured were transferred to nearby hospitals.
The semi-official Fars news agency reported earlier that more than 50 workers were trapped in a 2km-long tunnel filled with gas that hampered rescue efforts.
The mine has 500 workers and the explosion happened during a change of shift, Fars reported.
President Hassan Rouhani sent Mr Rabiei to the mine in order to oversee the rescue operations and treatment of victims, state news agency IRNA reported.
Ambulances, helicopters and other rescue vehicles raced to the scene in Iran's northern Golestan province as authorities worked to determine the scale of the emergency.
IRNA quoted Golestan provincial emergency management department head Sadeq Ali Moghadam as saying that 40 to 50 people were believed to be trapped in the mine outside the town of Azadshahr. But Pir Hossein Kolivand, who runs Iran's emergency department, later said as many as 80 miners could be trapped.
At least 25 people who had entered the mine to try to save those trapped were taken to hospital after inhaling gas, said Hamidreza Montazeri, the deputy head of the emergency management department in Golestan.
News agencies posted pictures online from the scene, showing ambulances and emergency workers gathered at the mouth of the mine.
Some images showed dazed workers, covered in coal dust, being helped by bystanders or laying on the ground as rescuers rushed past with oxygen bottles.