Iran mine accident search ends with 43 dead

Iran mine accident search ends with 43 dead
2 min read
09 May, 2017
Rescue workers have concluded search operations following explosions at an Iranian mine with the last of 43 victims from the disaster retrieved.
The bodies of 43 miners were recovered from the explosion site [Anadolu]

Iranian rescue workers pulled out the 43rd and "last body" of victims killed in a mine explosion after six days of round-the-clock digging, the state broadcaster reported on Tuesday.

Reza Morovati, an official in the Golestan government, said that the bodies have been taken to "forensics experts for identification".

The explosion happened on Wednesday in Zemestanyurt mine in Golestan province when workers tried to jump-start an engine in a tunnel filled with methane gas.

The bodies of 26 miners were recovered on the second day while rescue teams had to work four more days to gradually access the rest who were trapped in the excavation shafts.

The final toll was higher than expected as it had been unclear how many unregistered day-labourers were trapped by the explosion. 

Rescue work was hindered by the amount of rubble and toxic gases that filled the narrow mile-long tunnel.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei offered condolences for the "very bitter" tragedy.

"Efforts by various organisations will be rewarded (by God). They (should) increase their efforts as much as possible," he said in a message.

President Hassan Rouhani's car came under attack from angry miners and the families of victims when he visited the site on Monday.  

Rouhani, who is seeking re-election on 19 May, promised to deal with those at fault in the accident and pay overdue wages.

The explosion, and difficulties faced by rescue teams reaching victims trapped in the mine, could detrimentally impact Rouhani's re-election campaign.

Conservative candidates have accused the government of failing to care for the poor.

The mine will shut for six months while an investigation is carried out.

Tehran said last year that it required $20 billion of investment by 2025 in order to update and rehabilitate its mining sector.

The industry has previously been struck by fatal accidents.

In 2013, 11 workers were killed in two separate incidents, with a further 20 killed in 2009.

Agencies contributed to this report.