A train carrying fuel and industrial chemicals exploded in northeastern Iran today, killing more than 200 people and destroying five villages. About 300 people were injured in the explosion, when the freight train, hauling fuel oil and other industrial chemicals blew up outside the city of Neyshapur in Iran’s Khorasan province. The accident set off a number of explosions.
More than 40 freight wagons were waiting at a train station in Neyshapur when they were set in motion. It was not clear how. The wagons, speeding without an engine or anyone in control, later overturned, starting huge fires.
Firefighters trying to put out the fire when the wagons exploded were among the dead. At least 300 people were were injured. IRNA quoted local officials as saying most of the casualties were in five nearby villages that were destroyed, informs &to=http://www.breakingnews.iol.ie' target=_blank>BreakingNews
Many of the dead could be curious onlookers who were originally drawn to the scene of the fire.
The Seismological unit of Tehran University recorded an earth tremor measuring 3.6 on the Richter scale in the same area - possibly sparked by the force of the explosion. Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, offered Britain’s condolences to Iran.
"Many people appear to have been killed and many more appear to have been injured," he told reporters at the Foreign Office. "This is a terrible accident on top of the catastrophe of the earthquake in Bam." Mr Straw said he had already booked a telephone call to his Iranian counterpart, Kamal Kharrazi, to express sympathy for the loss of life and injury, reports &to=http://www.timesonline.co.uk' target=_blank>TimesOnLine
According to &to=http://www.bbc.co.uk' target=_blank>BBC pictures on Iranian TV showed massive destruction, with derailed wagons on fire and choking black smoke. Khorassan province's deputy Governor-General Hossein Zaresefat told AFP news agency that at least two local officials had been killed in the blast. Rescue workers are struggling to take several hundred injured people to hospitals in Neyshabur and Mashhad. Four helicopters, 25 ambulances and a 70-member rescue team are reported to have been sent to the scene. Some sources say the runaway train wagons - which included 17 wagons of sulphur, six wagons of petrol, seven wagons of fertilizers and 10 wagons of cotton wool - were set loose by earth tremors.