left right People gather at the site of an explosion in a coal mine in Golestan Province, in northern Iran. Tasnim News Agency/via REUTERS 1/2 left right A man reacts near the site of an explosion in a coal mine in Golestan Province, in northern Iran. Tasnim News Agency/ia REUTERS 2/2
ANKARA An explosion in a coal mine in northern Iran on Wednesday killed at least 21 workers and injured scores, state media reported.
The blast occurred at 12:45 p.m. local time (0745 GMT) in the Zemestanyurt mine when workers tried to jump-start a locomotive.
"Twenty-one bodies of workers …have been taken out of the mine …So far there have been 69 injured," a regional official in Golestan province told the semi-official Tasnim news agency.
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 two-kilometre-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 has sent Minister of Labour and Welfare to the mine in order to oversee the rescue operations and treatment of victims, state news agency IRNA reported.
Iran extracted 1.68 million tons of coal in 2016, an increase on previous years, thanks to an easing of international sanctions. It uses most in domestic steel production and exports only a fraction.
(Writing by Parisa Hafezi; editing by John Stonestreet)