Iran General NewsIran's fire survivors say help came too slow

Iran’s fire survivors say help came too slow

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Reuters: Survivors of a mosque fire that killed 59 people accused authorities in the Iranian capital Tehran of responding too slowly to save many of the victims.
At least 230 people remained hospitalised on Tuesday, one day after
a faulty kerosene heater ignited a massive blaze at Tehran’s Arg mosque, which was packed with worshippers for a major Shi’ite Muslim festival. Men, women and children were killed trying to
escape. Reuters

By Parisa Hafezi

TEHRAN – Survivors of a mosque fire that killed 59 people accused authorities in the Iranian capital Tehran of responding too slowly to save many of the victims.

At least 230 people remained hospitalised on Tuesday, one day after a faulty kerosene heater ignited a massive blaze at Tehran’s Arg mosque, which was packed with worshippers for a major Shi’ite Muslim festival.

Men, women and children were killed trying to escape.

“I saw people running. It was like a horror movie,” said 14-year-old Zahra, whose leg was broken after being trampled by terrified worshippers. “I was scared and could not breathe.”

Tehran police chief Morteza Talai told state television on Monday: “The basic safety rules, including installation of a kerosene heater very close to a curtain, was ignored.”

Tehran’s fire chief, Ahmad Ziai, defended the rescue effort.

“The fire workers and other rescuers immediately attended at the scene and prevented spread of fire,” he told state television.

“The worshippers were panicked. Many of them were wounded while fleeing.”

Some survivors and family, however, blamed authorities for not responding fast enough.

“Rescue teams did not arrive timely. There were few ambulances to take the injured ones to nearby hospitals,” said Mohsen, a 47-year-old shopkeeper who lost his wife and daughter in the mosque ablaze.

“My daughter could be alive now, if the rescue operation was faster,” Mohsen said, bursting into tears at Tehran’s Sina hospital.

High-ranking officials, including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, offered their condolences.

“I emphasize the need of accelerated help to those who survived the bitter incident,” state television quoted Khamenei as saying.

The Arg mosque, near Tehran’s sprawling bazaar, remained surrounded by police.

It was being repaired for the religious ceremonies of the holy month of Moharram, when Shi’ite Muslims pour into mosques to commemorate the death of the seventh century Shi’ite martyr Hossein, the grandson of Prophet Mohammed.

“The mosque will be ready to serve worshippers tonight,” the official IRNA news agency quoted an official of Tehran fire department, as saying.

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