Iran General News59 killed, more than 200 wounded in Iran mosque...

59 killed, more than 200 wounded in Iran mosque fire

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AFP: Nearly 60 people perished and more than 200 others suffered burns on Monday when a fire swept through a Tehran mosque crammed with worshippers, police said. The blaze broke out as the faithful packed into the Ark mosque near the main bazaar in the capital for prayers just a few days before the major Shiite Muslim religious festival of Ashura, local media reported. AFP

TEHRAN – Nearly 60 people perished and more than 200 others suffered burns on Monday when a fire swept through a Tehran mosque crammed with worshippers, police said.

The blaze broke out as the faithful packed into the Ark mosque near the main bazaar in the capital for prayers just a few days before the major Shiite Muslim religious festival of Ashura, local media reported.

“Fifty-nine people were killed and 210 others injured,” Mortezza Talaie, police chief in greater Tehran, was quoted as saying by public television.

Media reports said the fire was probably caused by a heater brought into the mosque to protect worshippers from the bitter cold and which set a tent ablaze and spread flames like wildfire through the mosque’s courtyard.

“The fire began on the women’s side, then spread to the men’s,” said the police commander. “It was absolute panic, which explains the high number of injured, at around 200. A lot of people were hurt in rushing towards the exits.”

Victims had little time to escape. Many suffocated to death as smoke enveloped corridors and the seating area reserved for women.

“My two children were inside. My daughter got out, but I can’t find my son,” sobbed a woman who gave her name only as Alemeh, outside the mosque.

Witnesses said they saw women jumping out of windows five metres (16 feet) up as worshippers struggled to escape the blazing inferno.

The fire was brought under control by 8:00 pm (1630 GMT), when the dead could be recovered and the wounded ferried to the local hospital away from the devastated courtyard, where shoes and garments littered the ground.

Tehran and much of the north of Iran have been gripped by blizzard conditions and days of record snowfall.

Ashura is the annual Shiite ritual commemorating the death of Hussein — the Prophet Mohammed’s grandson who was killed with his followers in 680 AD as Sunnis and Shiites disputed Mohammed’s succession.

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