Iranian news agencies are quoting provincial officials as saying that 21 miners died in a coal mine explosion earlier in the day in the country’s north.
The explosion hit a coal mine in the province of Golestan today, trapping dozens of miners.
After nightfall, Iran’s official IRNA news agency said bodies of 21 miners had been found. The report quoted Sadegh Ali Moghadam, the provincial director general of disaster management, as warning of the “possibility of the death toll rising.”
Moghadam said about 35 people are now thought to have been trapped inside the mine.
The semi-official ISNA and Tasnim news agencies gave the same death toll. ISNA quoted Houman Hadian of the Golestan mining industry, as saying the main tunnel of the mine is now open and that rescue teams are continuing their search.
A large explosion struck a coal mine in northern Iran on Wednesday, trapping dozens of miners and killing at least two, state media 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.
There was confusion about how many miners might be trapped inside. Hossein Ahmadi, head of the provincial Red Crescent, told state TV that about 26 were believed to be trapped.
Sadegh Ali Moghadam, the provincial director general of disaster management, provided a similar figure, telling state TV that 24 to 26 workers were thought to be inside following a headcount by mine authorities.
Other officials had earlier provided significantly higher estimates, including one from Pir Hossein Kolivand, who runs Iran’s emergency department. He said as many as 80 miners could be trapped in two sections of the mine.
Press TV, the English-language arm of Iranian state television, said two workers had died. Moghadam said about 25 people were injured in the accident.
Provincial spokesman Ali Yazerloo said the blast happened at 12:45 p.m. local time (0945 GMT) and that the provincial governor was heading to the scene. Several officials blamed the explosion on accumulated gas and said it was affecting rescue efforts.
At least 25 people who had entered the mine to try to save those trapped had to be taken to the hospital after inhaling the gas, said Hamidreza Montazeri, the deputy head of the emergency management department in Golestan.
Iranian news reports said the explosion happened while workers were changing shifts. “I carried two out of the mine,” an unidentified, soot— covered miner told state television. “It is not possible to go inside again. Oxygen tanks should be brought.”
Another miner said he feared his colleagues trapped inside may have died. “The gas in the mine exploded and my colleagues remained in the tunnel,” he said.
Semi-official Iranian news agencies posted images online from the scene, showing ambulances and emergency workers gathered at the mouth of the mine. Some showed dazed workers, covered in coal dust, being helped by bystanders or laying on the ground as rescuers rushed past with oxygen bottles.