295 killed in Iranian train disaster
* Hundreds injured
* Governor, local electricity and fire chiefs among dead
NEYSHABOUR: At least 295 people were killed on Wednesday in northeastern Iran when runaway train wagons loaded with sulphur, petrol and fertilizer derailed and blew up, according to the latest toll given by a local official.
“Up to this point, there are 295 dead,” a local official, who asked not to be named, told journalists. At the Behesht Fazl cemetery in Neyshabour, an AFP correspondent counted about 190 corpses and body parts lined up on the ground and covered in plastic. At a local hospital, reporters saw about 100 mutilated bodies, most of them also covered in plastic, and dozens of people wounded, most of them only receiving basic emergency care. Earlier, officials put the death toll at about 180, but Neyshabour chief coroner Mehran Bakili warned, “The magnitude of the explosion means that identifying the bodies will be a very slow process.”
The head of Khorassan province’s disasters unit, Vahid Barakchi, told the state news agency IRNA that the death toll stood at “more than 200”. “The explosion happened when the firefighters and the rescue workers were trying to put out the fire, and a number of the firefighters and local villagers were killed in the explosion,” Barakchi added. Television pictures showed smashed, blackened and burning tank wagons and other rolling stock piled up on the tracks as firemen hosed the wreckage. Surrounding villages also suffered serious damage, with three helicopters sent into the area to help scores of ambulances evacuate the wounded.
IRNA said police and members of the Revolutionary Guards had established a security perimeter due to the risk of further explosions. Their report said an appeal for blood donors had been made to cope with the needs of people who suffered horrific burns. The deadly mix of cargoes the wagons were carrying is likely to raise serious questions, and officials said a team from the province and the capital Tehran were already investigating the causes of the accident.
The huge blast occurred at Khayyam station, in a fertile and mainly agricultural area near the town of Neyshabour. It was heard in the provincial capital of Mashhad, some 75 kilometres (50 miles) away near the borders with Turkmenistan and Afghanistan. Local officials said the rail wagons, which were parked in a nearby station, began rolling away in the early hours of the morning, possibly after being jolted by a light earthquake.
Hossein Zaresefat, the deputy governor general of Khorassan province in charge of security, said at least two local officials were among the dead. They were the governor of Neyshabour city, Mojtaba Farahmand, and the local electricity chief Morteza Fahrian. IRNA said the head of the fire department was also dead, while its own correspondent from Neyshabour was missing. —AFP